• Post category:Stargazing

Telescopes are wonderful!

They let you peer into the vast unknown and see stars, planets, nebula and galaxies far, far away.

Out in space, there are some beautiful things to see. The Moon is great because it’s our closest neighbour and it’s big and bright. Nebulae are almost ghostly with their gaseous surroundings and star clusters will blow you away with their sparkling brilliance.

Telescopes come in many different sizes. The Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and the Orion Nebula and are terrific to see with smaller telescopes. To see the more distant and fainter objects such as galaxies and other nebulae, you might find you need a telescope with a larger mirror. The larger the mirror, the more light you can gather which makes it easier to see fainter objects.

Start with what you already have though. I have a telescope with a 9.25 inch mirror. I’ll let you know what I can see with my telescope.

Here are my
top 6 objects
I love to look at

1. Omega Centauri (NGC 5139)

My all-time favourite object to see through a telescope!

Omega Centauri is classed as a globular cluster of stars. It’s a sphere of about 10 million stars that are all bound by gravity, about 17,000 light years from Earth. To the naked eye it appears like a small, faint fuzzy cloud not too far from the Southern Cross. A telescope reveals a beautiful ball of countless stars that looks like shards of glass or a kaleidoscope. After a while your eyes start playing tricks and it appears like this giant ball of stars is alive and moving!

Omega Centauri
Omega Centauri (NGC 5139) image by NASA

2. The Jewel Box (NGC 4755)

Rather than a globular cluster of stars, the Jewel Box is classed as an open cluster. It contains over 100 stars and sits 6,400 light years away from us. Central to the cluster, there are three bright stars in a row. These are each different colours. To my eye, one is white/yellow like a diamond, one is red like a ruby and the other is green/purple like an emerald or sapphire. This is why it’s called the Jewel Box. Each pair of eyes sees the colours of these stars differently. I wonder what colours they will appear to you?

The Jewel Box
The Jewel Box (NGC 4755) image by NASA

3. The Moon

I love the texture of the surface of the Moon when you look at it though a telescope. There is the smooth, silkiness of the mares (or seas), like the famous Sea of Tranquillity or Mare Tranquillitatis, where the Apollo missions landed. And then there are the lumpy, bumpy areas where objects have crashed into the Moon leaving craters. The thing about the Moon is that there’s no wind. This means that every impact is completely preserved. Some are hundreds of kilometres across and there’s always something new to discover.

The Moon image by NASA image by NASA

4. Saturn

The giant ringed gas planet of our Solar System is certainly a crowd pleaser! I never tire of hearing the expressions when someone sees Saturn through a telescope for the first time. There’s the “wow’s” and the “ooohhhh’s” and “aaahhhh’s”. Then there are those who swear there’s a glow in the dark sticker on the front of the telescope! I guess that’s because Saturn looks like it’s straight out of a picture book! It sure is a wonderful planet to look at.

Saturn image by NASA

5. Sombrero Galaxy (Messier 104)

This one always makes me smile! When astronomers first started finding galaxies, they came up with some terrific names. Then there were just too many and they stopped naming them and instead gave them catalogue numbers. In fact everything in the night sky has a catalogue number. I can almost picture a Mexican underneath the broad brim of a Sombrero. The galaxy appears quite small in a telescope and looks like a fuzzy streak with a brighter centre, almost like the peak of a hat. The bigger the telescope the better! After all, it is 29 million light years away!

Sombrero Galaxy (Messier 104) image by NASA

6. Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372)

If you can view the Eta Carinae Nebula through an eyepiece with a wide field of view, you’ll feel like you’ve disappeared into space heaven! Gaseous clouds are studded with brilliant stars including the brightest one of Eta Carinea itself. Winding through are rivers of darkness where dust and gas block light emitted from the stars. It’s simply gorgeous and I could wander around in it for hours! I hope you and your children get out under the stars together soon. Enjoy the wonder and the peace that it brings and be amazed at how the questions will lead you to a lifelong passion just like it did for me.

Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372)
Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) image by NASA

Want to know how to get the best out of your telescope?

We have telescope classes all through the year. It’s a great place to learn how to use a telescope or to figure out which one to buy.

We look forward to welcoming you to our friendly community of Stargazers & Astronomy Lovers where we thrive on making learning about the galaxy easy & fun!

Carol Redford - Founder Stargazers Club WA


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