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A quick tour of Cassiopeia with binoculars


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Yesterday I spotted a brief gap in the rain and clouds around 8:30pm. I keep my 20x80 ready for such opportunities so I went out. There was no time for even a monopod as the clouds were literally racing across the sky. I sat in a reclining chair and balanced the weight of the bins on my eyes looking up at Cassiopeia (the only patch of sky which was clear for longer periods). I spent about 30 mins outside with interruptions from clouds but I'm happy that I revisited many of my favourite clusters in this rich constellation.

So I decided to write a short (and not at all comprehensive) tour of Cassiopeia with binoculars. I think the minimum to see all of the listed objects  is 10x50 but some of the dimmer clusters like the Caroline's Rose cluster may need larger bins. And of course all of them will look much better in a dark moonless sky.

So we begin the very best. Not really in Cassiopeia but close by in the neighbourhood: the Double cluster. To find it, go from Navi (Gamma Cass) to Ruchbah (Delta Cass) and continue about two steps further. In a dark sky you may be able to see this cluster even with your eyes.



Notice a line of 7th magnitude stars curving north of the double cluster. Follow them until you reach a big field of stars, Stock 2.

Turn west in a gentle  arc towards Ruchbah  and look for a hazy patch of light NGC 663.

From 663 go in a straight line towards Ruchbah and just over halfway you should see three stars in a line with a haze around them. This is M103.


From Ruchbah move south, in direction opposite to M103 and look for the orange star Phi Cass. It sits in the middle of NGC 457 the ET cluster, also called the Dragonfly cluster. You can't mistake this cluster for any other, it really looks like its name.

Then from the ET cluster head towards Navi (Gamma Cass) and continue about half the distance further. You should see a sparse circular group of faint stars, this is NGC 225.

Now is time for western Cassiopeia. These two clusters will definitely require a dark sky and perhaps larger binoculars. I could not see them last night.


 Step from Shedar (Alpha Cass) to Caph (Beta Cass) and continue moving in the same direction until you hit a small patch of light with a single resolvable star (magnitude 8 ) on the edge of it. This is M52.  Finally go back to Caph and make a right turn heading south. You will see two pairs of 5-th magnitude stars separated by about 2 degrees. The open cluster NGC 7789 is right in the middle of it. It looks great in a big reflector, but hard to see in binoculars. This was discovered by Caroline Herschel, the sister of William Herschel of the General Catalogue and Uranus fame. Caroline helped William a lot with the catalogue and discovered several of the objects there herself, like this one.

There are many more open clusters in Cassiopeia, this is just my selection. I hope you enjoyed it.

Clear skies!





Edited by Nik271
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Fantastic thank you for that tour. There are some mixed-forecast nights coming up here, I might just do exactly what you have done but with your notes as my guide! I’ll be able to tick off a few Messiers I’ve never got around to looking for yet. I’ll be using my 12x50s, but it is very dark here...

thanks, Magnus

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As a total beginner to Astronomy, I found this really interesting and gives me something to look at and find my way around the skies - when it’s clear 🥳

I look forward to following your tour.

Thank you 

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14 hours ago, Captain Magenta said:

I had a go a couple of nights ago. I got about halfway through your tour when Cass clouded over. I moved to Ursa Major and was gratified to quite clearly see M81 and M82 in the 12x50s.


Glad to hear that! If you can see the Bode's galaxy then all the other clusters in Cass should be nicely visible in the 12x50.

You must have darker skies, here I moved to bigger bins (20x80) largely because of the light pollution. A 10x50 pair does not show me mag 9 stars, it did not even show Eunomia at 8.5 a few weeks ago and I had to use the the big bins. 

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  • 2 months later...

With the 15x70s I’ve just seen some nebulosity in stars in a Y shape under Caph, which SkySafari tells me is van den Bergh 1. To the left of Shedar and under a mini Cass W asterism, there was clearly more nebulosity which was in the correct position for the Pac-Man nebula. To the far left of Segin, I could detect nebulosity surrounding two clusters of stars, possibly the collinders and open clusters within the Soul nebula? I’m fairly astounded at this and think these are maybe some of the most transparent conditions I’ve ever had at home. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you very much for this.  Cassiopeia is very prominent in my view.  The double cluster through 80x20s is stunning but just scanning you barely move and there's something else of interest.  As a novice, it's really helpful to see guides like this as I might have some sort of clue as to what I'm looking at.

Edited by GrumpiusMaximus
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