Sky & Telescope readers often comment how much they enjoy reading Sue French's "Deep-Sky Wonders" column. I certainly agree, but to some extent, that's missing the point. Sue is a good enough writer to make her column entertaining as armchair reading, but its real purpose is to be used outside, at night, by the side of a telescope.
Since I'm Sue's regular editor, I make a point of "doing" her columns whenever I get a chance. Among other things, it lets me make sure that the charts and illustrations that I prepare are adequate for finding the things she talks about. And in any case, it's hard to imagine a better way to spend an hour or two.I particularly enjoyed the column in the November 2009 issue because of its variety. Sue starts out exploring Pegasus I, a galaxy cluster with a couple of very prominent members (NGC 7619 and 7623) and a whole host of fainter ones. I was pleased that, using my 12.5-inch Dob last Sunday at my semi-dark second home in rural NY, I was able to log at least a strong "maybe" for all the ones listed in the article.
Sue sometimes fails to get the respect that she deserves from hard-core deep-sky observers -- perhaps because she spends so much time with her 4.1-inch refractor, or perhaps because she never goes out of the way to took her own horn. In fact, she generally sees more through her 10-inch scope from her far-from-dark backyard than I can through my 12.5-incher at a considerably darker site. Then again, she probably devotes ten times as much time as I do to observing, so her superior skill is hardly surprising.
After I'd spent more than an hour straining to see the 14th-magnitude galaxies described in the November Deep-Sky Wonders, I got to unwind with a lovely succession of relatvely easy double stars, the magnificent carbon star TX Piscium (which I often view), and a charming asterism that I never would have stumbled on if Sue hadn't mentioned it.
But don't take my word for it. If you own a telescope, why don't you try "doing" Deep-Sky Wonders yourself? Sue almost always lists one or more targets that are easy for novices to enjoy as well at least one target that's bound to be a challenge for even the most experienced observer.