Aquarius - Aquila - Aries - Auriga - Bootes


This fine constellation contains interesting objects of all types, the best-known probably being the Andromeda Galaxy (colloquially known these days as just "Andromeda"). Binoculars give a view of this object as a fuzzy oval patch, but do not let that distract you from the many other sights in this large constellation

Groups of Stars

1. The line of 3, 5, 7, 8 and 11, the last of which is a wide double. This group is visible with the slightest optical aid, and there are other stars near 7.

2. 63, 64, 65 and 66. These form a much smaller, and rather fainter group. 64 is noticeably orange in colour.

3. 00h, +42 Small collection of 6th and 7th magnitude stars in the form of a rough V, pointing in the general direction of ι, κ, λ and ψ. This little group used to be known as a separate constellation called Gloria Frederici or "Frederic's Glory". It has since been omitted from the official constellations but is still of some interest to astronomical historians.

Wide doubles

o & 2. These form a bright wide pair of magnitudes 3 and 5.

62. Magnitudes 5.1 and 6.1, both white.

Close doubles

ΣI 1. A pair of 7th-magnitude stars separated by 46 seconds of arc.

56. This is a brighter and wider object. Mags are both 6, and the separation here is 182". Close to the fine star cluster NGC 752.

Variable stars

R (6.9-13.3) This red Long-Period Variable is easy with binoculars at maximum, which usually takes place around magnitude 6, though occasionally much fainter. Coming maxima of this star are listed in the appendices. R Andromedae itself as a neighbour of 6.9m which is perfect for estimating when the variable is around maximum.

TZ (7.6-9.0) TZ is situated in a small equilateral triangle near group 3 above, and the other base stars in this triangle are 7.9 and 8.7, so they are good comparison stars.

VX (7.8-9.3) A deep red star of spectral type N, with some good comparison stars in the area.

AQ (8.0-8.9) Easily found near a prominent Y-shaped group made up of ρ, σ and θ, this variable is part of a neat group of seventh and eighth magnitude stars. Like the preceding variable, it is quite red.

BZ (7.5-8.4) A brighter variable in the North of the constellation. It lies between π Cas and an impressive line of 6th and 7th magnitude stars.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.31 (NGC224). This is the famous Andromeda Galaxy, easily visible to the smallest binoculars. Indeed, I can see it easily with the naked eye whenever the Moon is out of the way, and it was known to the ancients, though of course its true nature eluded them. Its elliptical outline extends over two degrees of sky, and binoculars give a better view of its size than do most telescopes. Try various observing techniques on M.31; move the binoculars around slowly, use averted vision, combine these two techniques, and so on.

NGC 752. A cluster described by the Hungarian observer Bela Szentmartoni (alas now deceased) as "a great star-cloud, containing faint stars". Well worth the finding.

NGC 7662. A planetary nebula which looks like a faint bluish star. Owners of small binoculars will need to use the chart given here to find it. Planetary Nebulae are remnants of once-giant red stars which, in the course of their evolution and growth, threw off most of their outer atmospheres in a giant shell of gas, which we see as the nebula. All that is left of the giant is a small star at the centre, usually very faint and invisible with binoculars.


A large group with many fine fields, double stars and some interesting nebular objects.Unfortunately most of them are beyond the range of normal binoculars!

Groups of stars

1. Sparse group of 15, 16 and 21 plus 20, a further star of 6.4m.This group is located just North of β Aquarii.

2. 22h, -5. Larger collection of 6th-magnitude stars in addition to many fainter ones. In a wide field, the area is very attractive.

3. ψ1,2 and 3. These form another fine group with some fainter outliers.

4. The stars 86, 88 and 89 form an imposing group along with numerous fainter stars. Not far away is a slightly smaller collection centred around 99 Aquarii.

5. Beautiful group of 103, 104, 106, 107 and 108. Fewer fainter stars here, though.

6. On the border with Cetus is an attractive curved line of 6th and 7th magnitude stars. To find it, locate ι Ceti (3.7) and sweep Westward along the horizon by about 5 degrees.

Wide doubles

4 and 5. Magnitudes 6.0 and 5.5, in an attractive area near 3 (4.6). See if you can spot which are the orange-coloured stars.

β .This star has a 5m companion directly South.

σ and 58. Two stars differing by a magnitude in an interesting area.

δ and 77. This is a slightly fainter edition of σ above.

Close doubles

Σ2809. A good object for large binoculars, the stars of magnitudes 6 and 9 being separated by 31 seconds. Near the cluster M2.

Σ2993. This is associated with group (3) and is even harder than the previous object. Distance only 26".

Variable stars

R (6.8-10). This interesting star can be followed for much of its cycle with binoculars. It is embedded in faint nebulosity and is a "symbiotic" variable made up of two stars which influence each other's evolution and behaviour. Most of the time, however, it behaves as a fairly normal Mira-type star. Even so, you could do worse than observe it once every three weeks. Predicted times of maxima are given in the appendices.

Z (7.2-9.8) A star with quite a large amplitude, though you will need dark skies and large binoculars to catch it near minimum. It lies between the 6m star 1 Ceti and the bright group around R above. It is just to the East of a 6.4m star and a little triangle of 8.1, 8.8 and 9.2 is to be found the same distance to the South of the variable.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.2 (NGC 7089) A globular cluster, appearing in 6x30's as a starlike nebulous point. Improves with altitude.

NGC 7009. A planetary nebula near ν , visible as a small spot with 8x30's.

NGC 7293. A large planetary, which class of object Aquarius seems to be well-provided for. 7009 is called the Saturn nebula, this one is the Helix. These evocative names will not unfortunately convey very much to the binocular observer, as high magnifications are necessary to show these objects to any advantage. But you can at least say that you've found them!


A constellation with a great store of interesting objects for the binocular observer. Its leader, Altair, is quite close to the Sun, at a distance of 16 light-years. It is in a field of bright stars and dark nebulae are nearby too, but you will need a transparent night and no light pollution to see them.

Groups of stars

1. η Scuti (5.0), the orange star 12 Aql, λ (3.6) and 14 & 15 (both 5.5) form a brilliant group.

2. The region SW and E of δ (3.4) is strewn with bright lines and small groupings of stars.

3. 20. A beautiful fan between this star and 12, though rather nearer the former.

Wide doubles

10 and 11. This 6m pair forms a triangle with ε and ζ. 10 is a small-amplitude variable with an official designation of V1286 Aquilae.

χ and 46. Close to Tarazed (γ Aql) in a fine region.

56 and 57. An interesting wide pair, since 57 is itself a binocular double. 56 is orange and 57 is blue. Together they point South to a wide triple including the 5.6m star 51.

θ and 66. Another coloured pair of white and red. Have a look and see if you can see which is which.

Close doubles

Σ2425. A rather close double (32") of magnitudes 7 and 8.

15. Wider and brighter; the companion is orange.

OΣΣ 178. Magnitudes 5 and 7, separated by 90 seconds of arc.

28. This is one of a bright triangle. It has a faint companion 60" away.

Σ2497. A difficult object of mags 7 and 8, separated by 30 seconds.

57. Magnitudes 5.9 and 6.5, distance 36". Webb et al have remarked on the colours; those of the primary have been seen as pale yellow or white, whilst the fainter star seems a bit wilder - pale lilac, bluish, greenish or azure white. After all this, you really will have to have a look for yourself!

OΣΣ202 . An easy pair separated by 43".

S749. A fainter, wide pair in a rich field. Distance 60".

Variable stars

R (6.1-11) This interesting star can be followed for much of its range with binoculars, and times of maximum are given in this book. It is peculiar in that its period has undergone definite changes over time.

V (6.7-8.2) A beautiful deep red star which makes a triangle with 7.1 and 8.3 objects. Easily found when bright because of its colour.

TT (7.0-8.9) A Cepheid type star with a period of 13.75 days. There are several 8th- magnitude comparisons around, but it has to be said that Cepheids are not always the most exciting stars for amateurs to follow for long because of their predictability, though they are good practice objects.

UV (8.3-9.3) Better suited to powerful glasses, this has a neighbour of 8.9m. With large instruments, you may detect this star's deep red colour.

V450 (6.3-6.9) A red star at the right-angle of a triangle (var,6.6,7.0) not too far from Altair. Suitable for the smallest instruments.

Clusters and Nebulae

NGC 6709. A cluster which is best seen in large glasses. Imre Toth sees it as (my translation) "stars around two diffuse parts... about 4 stars can be distinguished". This observation was made with 10x80s.


A rather dull group marked by the stars Hamal, Sheratan and Mesartim. A neat little triangle in the East of Aries used to be called Musca Borealis (the Northern Fly).

Groups of stars

1. Three doubles in the same field; 10, 11 and 14.

2. A very attractive area is enclosed by the stars μ, ν, 26 and 27.

3. ξ. Sweep from here to another xi, ξ2 Ceti (4.3)

4. The large group of o, σ, π ,40 and RZ is worth looking at, and there are fainter stars visible in the area. RZ is of course variable, but its amplitude is too small to concern us here.

5. Another fine group, including τ, 63 and 65.

Close doubles

λ. A close pair near Hamal. Mags 5 and 7, distance 38". It makes a wide pair with 7 RR Ari).

14. A triple star of magnitudes 5,8 and 8, distances 93 and 103 seconds.

30. A fine pair of 6.6 and 7.4, 39" apart. Possibly variable.


A marvellous Milky Way constellation with endless groups of faint stars. The Eastern reaches are quite barren in comparison with the area bounded by the bright stars. Capella, its leader, was known to the Arabian sky-watchers as the "Guardian of the Pleiades". Sir John Herschel thought it had brightened during his lifetime, but there is no evidence for this. Near Capella is the little triangle of ε, η and ζ known as the Kids, held in no mean dread by classical writers. An old couplet runs:

Tempt not the winds, forewarned of dangers nigh,
When the Kids glitter in the Western sky

Groups of stars

1. Beautiful collection of hot-looking bright stars around 16 Aur.

2. 5h 12m, +31. Radiant curving line of 7th- and 8th-magnitude stars. A degree South is a similar, though less striking, line.

3. The area round the bright star β Tauri is worth sweeping. Though not technically in Auriga, this star is clearly part of the pattern, and was actually known at one time as gamma Aurigae.

4. Between μ and σ there are sprinklings of stars of assorted brightnesses. An impressive area.

5. λ . Another star in a fine region, with lines, diamonds and circlets of small stars.

6. The area around χ and φ abounds likewise in fans and lines of faint stars.

7. Bright reversed Y between 40 (5.3) and beta.

8. Prominent group of four stars all bearing the greek letter ψ and distinguished by their superscript numbers of 2, 4, 5 and 7. Try and arrange these in order of brightness - there is not much to choose between them! Also, the area around the second of these stars is rich in faint stars.

Wide doubles

5 and 6. A wide coloured pair, yellow and red.

ψ8,59,60. All these three are roughly equal in magnitude, though 59 is slightly variable and is also known as OX Aur.

Close doubles

Σ698. In a fine area, this is a close pair (31") of magnitudes 6 and 8.

56. This coloured pair has a separation of 48" of arc.

Σ994. A faint, close double. Mags 7.3 and 8.0, distant by 26 seconds.

Variable stars

TU (8.0-9.1) TU Aurigae lies between ψ4 and 47 (6.0). Few bright comparisons here, but I have supplied a chart in the appendices.

UU (5.1-6.8) A very red star, suitable for the smallest glasses.

UV (7.4-10) An object for large glasses, this is a symbiotic variable, or possibly a Mira star, near group (2) above.

TW (7.8-9.1) Very easy to find near β. Two stars between this object and the variable are of 8.1 and 8.8 magnitudes. This star illustrates the necessity of actually looking at the sky when doing research of any kind. I had originally planned to select this star for telescopic observation, but on looking at it, found it too bright!

WW (5.7-6.4) A bright eclipser well-removed from the main group. The wide triangle of 49 (5.1) 53 (5.5) and 54 (4.8) can be used here.

AB (7.3-8.5) A nebular variable - not terribly active unfortunately - which underwent a decline in early 1976. It lies between two stars of 6.8 and 7.4m, and has two companions; one of 7.5 directly S, and another which is in fact also a nebular star of the T Tauri variety to the N. This is SU (9.0-9.6) which owners of large glasses might like to look at. I have just glimpsed it with 10x50's.

AE (5.4-6.1) A white variable, in this sense not unlike AB above. AE Aur is an example of what is known rather spectacularly as a runaway star. The theory is that it, along with two other similar stars, 53 Arietis and μ Columbae, were hurled out from the part of the sky now marked by the Orion Nebula by a supernova explosion.

NO (5.8-6.3) This lies close to 26 (5.5) but is rather unsuitable for visual observers because of its small range of variation.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.38 (NGC 1912). Even in small glasses this shows up as a bright oval spot in a rich field.

M.36 (NGC 1960). You may be able to see some individual stars in this cluster. Also in a fine area.

M.37 (NGC 2099). The largest of the Messier objects in Auriga, this appears as a large oval nebulosity. Very worth while looking at.

NGC 1857. Visible as a haze beyond an unequal double, one component of which is reddish in hue. Again, a cluster in a very rich area.


A large group marked by the brilliant Arcturus, mentioned in the Bible. A constellation containing several good double stars, but no nebulae - at least for the binocular observer.

Groups of stars

1. θ, ι, κ. Sweep this area, noting a small, faint triangle directly South of iota.

2. 15h 10m, +39. A region of several double stars.

3. ζ . Sweep the area a few degrees west of this star.

4. Bright quadrilateral of ω, ψ , 45 and 46.

5. 14h 21m, +8. Line of three bright stars, including a red one.

6. 14h 08m, +15. Delicate line of faint stars.

Wide doubles

ι. Mags 4.8 and 6.1. The bright star is also a close double of 4.8 and 7.7 magnitude and 38 seconds separation.

6. The companion to this star is OΣΣ 126, a beautiful pair 86" apart. On the other side of this double is another (7th mag.) star.

ζ. A wide double of 3.9 and 6.0, both white.

ν. This makes a superb wide pair with its neighbour 53. Both equal in brightness but not in colour. Have a look and note your colour estimates.

Close doubles

Σ1850. This 6m star has a fainter comes , 26" away.

Σ1921. Two seventh-magnitude stars separated by thirty seconds of arc.

δ. A wide pair (105") of contrasting colours. In the same field is 50 (5.4) with two 8th-mag neighbours, one SE and the other NE.

GC 20252. For all its designation, this is an ordinary 6th-magnitude star, but it does have a faint companion to the NE.

μ1,2 Makes an imposing pair 88" apart. Mu has a proper name, Alkalurops. Most of the old star-names come down to us from the Arabs, but this one is a mixture, part Arabic and part Greek. Al- is simply the Arabic word for "the", found in many star-names, whereas the rest of the name comes from the Greek Kalaurops , meaning a shepherd's crook or staff.

Variable stars

RV (7.5-8.8) This is near the similar star,

RW (7.5-9.2) Both of these are shown on the chart in the appendix.

RX (6.9-9.1) An object of similar type to the above, close to a bright comparison of 6.2m. A wide pair of 7.0 and 7.4 are not far away. Note the red colour of RX.

UV (8.0-8.7) An eruptive variable forming a little triangle with RX and its bright comparison. Unfortunately it is not terribly active, and its range is rather on the small side.

ZZ (6.8-7.6) This eclipsing star forms a right-angle with 9 and 11 Bootis. Some useful stars lie to the SE.

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