A splendid group, containing two spectacular clusters in addition to a host of interesting objects of all types. Its leader, Aldebaran, the eye of the bull, is a suitably angry red, with the Hyades cluster as a sparkling background. Taurus has everything for the binocular observer; beautiful wide double stars, interesting variables, and several notable clusters.
1. Fine, brilliant group that includes μ (4.3) and 47 (5.0).
2. Small oblique cross of ω , 51, 53 and 56. Note a small circlet to the East.
3. Not far away is another singular bright group of κ , 67, υ and 72.
4. The Hyades. Note especially the numerous wide pairs and triples around this area. A good first object to draw; begin with the two faint lines marking the arms of the V, then add the stars. Note that another arm extends southwards from Aldebaran, making the famous V into a not-so-famous N!
5. Brilliant, long, meandering line beginning at 120 and ending at 134.
6. Slightly SE of 12 (5.8) is a tiny "cluster" of four stars.
21 and 22. A white, unequal pair in the Pleiades.
27 and BU. BU is Pleione, in the Pleiades, and is said to be one of the few single stars that are noticeably purple in colour, though it always looks white to me.
37. This forms a wide pair with 39.
θ1,2. A beautiful naked-eye pair in the Hyades.
σ1,2. Another beautiful wide pair. A third star is visible.
10. This has a fainter companion to the N, which is in fact a small-range variable, V711 Tau.
Σ I 7. A 7th-magnitude pair 44" apart.
φ . Difficult, because of the magnitudes of 5 and 9. Distance is 53".
62. Another unequal pair, this time of magnitudes 6 and 8 with a distance of 29".
88. Easier though still unequal; mags 4 and 7, 69" apart.
τ . Distance in this case is 63" and the mags are 5 and 7.
Σ I 12. An easy pair of 6m and 7m, 78 seconds apart.
OΣΣ 64 This 8th-magnitude pair are 76" apart. A fine field.
OΣ 118 The distance is the same, but the stars rather brighter (6m and 8m).
Y (6.8-9.2) This variable forms a triangle with two stars of 5.9 and 7.2, the latter with a 7.9m neighbour. Three other stars of 8.1, 8.6 and 9.4 lie just to the West. A satisfying star to observe, its deep red colour aiding identification.
TT (8.1-8.8) South of this deep red star is a straight line of 7.3, 7.5 and 8.1. The central of these has a companion of 8.8m.
TU (5.9-9.2) Another deep red star. I have provided a chart.
BU (5.0-5.5) Pleione is a hot irregular variable known as a shell star, though its range of only half a magnitude and its slow changes do not make it the most suitable type of variable for amateur observers. Use 16 (5.5) as a comparison star.
HU (6.0-6.8) An eclipsing binary for which you can use a wide pair to the southeast (6.6 and 7.2.)
M.45. The Pleiades are visible in their true glory only with binoculars, which are also useful for revealing the faint nebulae that reflect the light of the hot stars nearby. The area around Merope (23 Tau) is especially bright, though as with all nebulae, any haze or mist will ruin the view. I once did an observational project on the appearance of the Pleiades nebulosity and came up with the conclusion that it was by no means standard from one night to the next. This does not of course mean that the nebulosity actually changes, however - just the observing conditions!
The Pleiades, by their beautiful appearance, have awed all those who watch the sky since time out of mind: and are known by names as diverse as the cultures which bestowed them, witness the following selection of epithets - a bunch of grapes, speckles of dust, the little turkeys, the little nanny-goats, or the hen and chickens; but we probably know them best as the seven sisters, in Greek myth the daughters of Atlas. By name they are Merope, Alcyone (the brightest Pleiad) Celaeno, Electra, Taygete, Asterope and Maia. Beautiful names for beautiful stars.
M.1 (NGC 1952). This is the Crab Nebula, remnant of a star that went Supernova several thousands of years ago and seen in 1054 by Chinese astronomers, among others. It is very interesting from the astrophysical point of view and indeed it has been said that there are two sorts of astronomy - the ordinary sort and Crab Nebula astronomy! It is a testing object for binoculars so I have provided a chart to help you find it.
NGC 1758. A large cluster of faint stars, quite impressive in large glasses, where its brighter members are seen to form a kind of S-shape.
NGC 1647. This is a large, fairly bright cluster that reveals some of its 30 stars to the binocular.
A small but readily-spotted constellation containing some good fields, notably near the borders with Perseus.
1. 01h 45m, +32°. Small isosceles triangle with a group of seventh- and eighth-mag stars to be seen just to the North of its southern member.
2. Sweep within the trapezium formed by 6, 10, 11 and 12.
3. 15 (5.6). Good sweeping SW of this red star, including the LPV R Trianguli (see below).
γ . Together with 7 and δ this makes a fine, wide triple for small glasses.
12. A star with three fainter acolytes, one of which is 13 (5.9).
15. Lies in an area of many wide pairs.
R (5.8-12) 15 Trianguli nearby makes a good comparison for this popular variable when at maximum, which occurs on average every 267 days. Predictions for R Tri are included in the appendices.
W (7.5-8.8) A red star in the same field. It lies between two comparisons of 8.1 and 8.4. If R is visible, why not observe them both together. Do you see any difference in their colours?
M.33 (NGC 598). A large, isolated galaxy, visible to binoculars as a round spot, brighter in the centre than at the edges. On one occasion I have glimpsed it with the naked eye. Its light is spread out over a large area, so it looks very pale.
The most famous constellation in the sky is much larger than is popularly thought, extending far beyond the "seven stars in the sky", the Plough, Big Dipper or Charles' Wain as it is variously known. The last of these names is interesting, referring not to King Charles as many think, but quite the opposite - the Churl's Wain or peasant's cart! Be that as it may, the Plough has been used since time immemorial to help sea-voyagers and lost wayfarers navigate. An old mariner's rhyme runs:-
Where yonder radiant hosts adorn the Northern evening sky
Seven stars, a splendid glorious train, first fix the wandering eye
To deck great Ursa's shaggy form, those brilliant orbs combine
And where the first and second point, there see Polaris shine.
1. Small, bright triangle of 2, π1 and π2. Fine sweeping between this group and the regular triangle of ρ , and
σ 1,2. Note a tiny tick-shaped collection of stars a degree SE of π2.
2. Large, bright fan of stars including 38 UMa.
3. Sweep the bowl of the Plough, noting that the nearby 43 (5.8) is just North of a small faint line, rather angular in shape.
4. Beautiful bright trail stretching from Mizar to κ Bootis.
5. 51 (6.1). Note that a star 2° to the Southeast is the southern member of a regular figure-seven shape, and also has a close pair to its own South-East.
16. This has a companion NE which is in turn a close pair - Struve 1315, a 7th-magnitude double some 25 seconds apart.
67. Binoculars show one, possibly two, companions.
ζ and 80. This is of course Mizar and Alcor, the well-known naked-eye pair. You can even see Alcor when it is low in the sky, and Mizar itself is also double (2.1,4.2; 14") and has been split with a good pair of 12x40 binoculars. You may in addition see another star between Mizar and Alcor called at one time Sidus Ludovicianum or "Ludwig's Star", named regrettably not after Beethoven, but by a loyal subject of King Ludwig, who thought he had discovered a new star! (That's the subject, not mad King L.)
55. A 4.9m star with a 7m companion.
Σ1495. This lies between the pointers, Dubhe and Merak, and is 36" apart with a bright star to either side.
OΣΣ 99. A wide pair in a barren area. Mags 6 and 8, distance 80".
OΣ 199. A rather hard object; mags 6.6 and 8.3, distance 230".
P.283. Though the companion is quite faint at 8.3, this is a wide pair (187")
P.284. A beautiful object; both stars mag 6 and orange. Easy at 221 seconds.
65. Another fine sight, similar to the previous star, though closer (63").
P.285. A difficult double of 6.7 and 8.2, 98" apart.
P.290. Difficult again; mags 5.4 and 8.2, though twice as wide as P.285.
P.287. Rather easier at 146" and magnitudes 6.3 and 7.6.
Y (7.6-9.5) A red star not far from Alioth, the lucida of the Plough. It lies right between two useful stars of 7.9 and 8.2, though large glasses are needed to follow it around minimum.
Z (6.6-9.1) This well-observed and interesting star is in a faint little X whose mags are (from N to S) 8.8, 8.7, 8.6, 8.8. A brighter star of 7.2 lies between Z and Megrez, the faintest star of the dipper, though some believe this star may have faded somewhat over the course of centuries.
RY (7.0-8.0) An easy star to find, one of a small Y whose other stars are of 6.9, 7.4 and 7.8m.
ST (6.4-7.5) This bright red star is ideal for the beginner, though rather hard to find initially. It is the most Northerly of a distinctive, small vertical line of three whose southern member is 6.9m.
TX (6.9-8.5) This eclipser lies near a star of mag.5, with a companion of 8.1m. A degree North-East of the bright star is another comparison of 7.3m.
VW (7.2-7.8) A red star, for which a little triangle some distance to the Northeast can be used (6.9, 7.3, 8.0). VW further lies between two 6m stars and has a southerly companion of 7.6m.
VY (6.0-6.6) A deep red star, good for the beginner with small glasses, though rather poor in light-range. Use the long triangle to the East of 6.1, 6.5 and 6.7. As with most stars of this class (the red Irregulars) it needs observing only once, or, in case of interesting behaviour, twice a month.
M.81 (NGC 3031). A galaxy readily seen in average bins. You may also see its fainter neighbour M.82. In 1993 a Spanish amateur discovered a Supernova in M.81 that has proved to be one of the most interesting explosions yet observed. Although 1993J as it was called never reached binocular visibility, this is still a good example of what an ordinary observer can achieve.
Some notable red stars, but really not much besides, at least for the observer using binoculars.
1. 13h 36m, +77°. Small arc of five, with some fainter associates.
2. Sweep along the line of 4, 5 and β . They are all reddish stars.
3. η . Lies in a beautiful field, with some coarse groups of stars.
4. 15h 00m, +67°. Bright quadrilateral, of which the senior member is the variable RR UMi, a small-amplitude red star of magnitude 5.
γ . This has a red companion, 11 (5.1).
β . A degree to the North is a bright, wide double.
π1 . Magnitudes 6 and 7, distance 31". Quite easy.
P.288. A faint, obscure pair of 7.5 and 8.4. Separation 210".
V (7.4-8.8) Found near group (1), this is the southern member of a small isosceles whose other stars are 7.8 and 8.1m.
A large group with some good fields and several nice variables. Its most notable claim to fame is the vast collections of galaxies which inhabit it, though only a very few of these are binocular objects.
1. Sweep from σ towards ζ .
2. Long arc, extending from 95 (5.5) to 72 (6.1).
3. ι . This lies inside a pretty triangle, with a fine cross to the W.
4. 61 (4.8) is the centre of a large, bright collection best seen with small bins.
27 and ρ . An unequal, wide pair.
64 and σ . South of these stars is another wide 6m double.
Σ 1740. A close, equal double of the 7th magnitude, and 28" separation.
R (6.0-11.5) A mira star with the short period of 150 days. I have followed this star to mag.10 with a 7x50 finder - You will never know quite what your optics can do unless you push them from time to time! Predictions are supplied.
RT (8.0-9.0) A rather isolated and dim star
RW (7.0-8.2) There is a small triangle closely E of 6.8,7.6 and 8.8, and a 7.2m star near RW itself. RX, one degree away, is a similar type of star, but with a small range of only half a magnitude.
SS (6.8-8.9) An interesting star to follow, this makes a north-pointing triangle with two stars of 7.7 and 8.8. Observe once every 3 weeks.
SW (6.5-7.7) This lies between θ and a 6m star. SW Vir is the southern member of a little line of three (the others are 7.7 and 8.1).
BG (8.1-9.1) This, together with its neighbour of 8.9m, is the most northerly of a triangle of wide, faint pairs. The E. pair is of 8.4 and 8.9, and between BG and 109 (3.8) are two other stars of 7.6 and 7.9m.
FH (6.9-7.5) Though of small range, two stars near 59 Vir, of 6.9 and 7.2, are useful as comparison stars for this variable.
M.49 (NGC 4472). A galaxy which appears as a faint gleam of light.
M.104 (NGC 4594). The "Sombrero Hat" galaxy is visible as an elliptical blur. The many other incredibly distant galaxies in this constellation are mostly very faint, but you could try sweeping slowly and carefully around the bowl of Virgo (that is, the area roughly bounded by δ and ε virginis and beta Leonis) for a glimpse of some of them.
A really fine little group in the Milky Way, unfortunately rather shapeless. In fact there used to be two constellations here; the other was predictably Anser, the Goose - it is no longer officially in the sky, but presumably in the Fox's tum instead!
1. 4 (5.3) is the leader of a brilliant little group known as the "Coathanger" from its shape - which may look more realistic in an inverting optical system such as many finderscopes are. In ordinary binoculars, you will have to conceive of an upside-down coathanger!
2. 18,19 and 20. 19 is surrounded by three faint stars, while some members of the open cluster NGC 6885 may be seen around 20. Very fine field.
3. 29. This is surrounded by beautiful faint groupings.
α . This has a companion of 6.0m. Additionally, the interesting open cluster NGC 6800 lies nearby.
16. Another star with a 6th-mag. attendant.
32. Two, maybe three companions may be seen here.
OΣΣ 181. Right on the border with Lyra, these stars are both of 6.5m. A fine object.
Σ I 48. Another equal 6th-magnitude pair, but thirteen seconds closer at 42".
V (8.1-9.4) Most good binoculars should be able to follow this interesting member of the RV Tauri class, easily located close to the 5.5m star 27 Vulpeculae. The variable lies exactly midway between this star and a faint comparison of 9.3 magnitude situated half a degree Northwest of 27 Vul. A brighter star of 8.6 magnitude forms an isosceles triangle with V Vul and 27. Observe this variable once a week, since its period is only about 75 days.
SV (7.5-9.4) A golden-yellow Cepheid with the long period for these stars of 45 days, which by the period-luminosity law (i.e.,the longer the period of a Cepheid the more luminous it is),means that here we have a very powerful star indeed. A chart is supplied for it, and also the similarly-coloured S Vul not far away, which is a small-amplitude semiregular variable, not so very dissimilar in fact from the Cepheid variable close by, other than the fact that its variations are not quite so predictable.
DY (7.0-7.7) Just to the North is a star of 7.5, while directly North of 33 Vul is a brighter comparison of 6.7. A red variable.
FI (7.6-9.1) An irregular line of 7.4, 7.3 and 9.0 lies to the W, and a star of 8.5m is North-East. The field can be found by means of a wide pair of 6.9 and 7.2.
Cr.399. This is the Coathanger, mentioned above. It was near here in 1976 that George Alcock, the famous amateur, discovered another of his many novae. This was no flash in the pan, however; for many years he had been watching the skies, learning the patterns of hundreds of stars along the Milky Way, an approach now copied by the rest of the world's amateurs involved in the discovery of Novae. He used for these purposes not a powerful telescope, but binoculars - proof again that you do not need to spend large amounts of money on flashy-looking pieces of high-tech equipment to make a mark in the world of Astronomy - though you do need dedication, devotion and sometimes a bit of patience!
M.27 (NGC 6853). The dumb-bell nebula, this is readily visible as a large grey spot near the 5m star 14 Vulpeculae. You might like to search out this constellation for other open clusters not discussed above, chief of which is probably NGC 6885.