111 Deep-Sky Wonders for Light-Polluted Skies

The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) is visible in binoculars, even from within a city.
S&T: Richard Tresch Fienberg

Where I live, 30 miles west of downtown Philadelphia (near historic Valley Forge, Pennsylvania), the glow of the nighttime sky is often bright enough that I can read my star charts without the aid of a red flashlight. Sadly, for most of the stargazing community in our country, this is a pretty typical situation. Yet despite such blatant intrusions on the once sacred darkness of the night sky, many deep-sky wonders can still be seen and enjoyed in a small telescope. In fact, some keen-eyed observers have even been able to glimpse the brightest quasar, 13th-magnitude 3C 273 in Virgo. Considering that the object is at a distance of around 2 billion light-years, it is amazing that it can be seen at all under such conditions, let alone with apertures as small as 5 or 6 inches!

The Orion Nebula (Messier 42) is the brightest emission nebula visible from midnorthern latitudes.
S&T: Richard Tresch Fienberg

Presented here is a table of 111 deep-sky showpieces scattered around the heavens, most of them visible from midnorthern latitudes through even the brightest of skies. Since stars have the highest per-unit-area brightness, double and multiple stars and bright star clusters dominate the selection. Nebulae and galaxies are still well represented even though these faint fuzzies suffer the most from light pollution. You can readily find all of them within their respective constellations using a good star atlas such as Sky Atlas 2000.0, and the vast majority are plotted in more basic atlases and on detailed star maps. In fact, many of these targets appear on Sky & Telescope's monthly centerfold star map.

A few observing hints are in order. While low magnifications and wide fields of view are typically used for finding deep-sky objects, higher magnification has the benefit of darkening the background sky — something to keep in mind when you're looking through light pollution. Close doubles and tight clusters (especially globulars) are best seen on nights of steady seeing, while nebulae and galaxies should be saved for nights when transparency is excellent. All deep-sky objects are at their best when on or near the meridian and, therefore, highest in the sky.

The Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus is a fine example of an open star cluster.
S&T: Richard Tresch Fienberg

Use direct vision where color perception and resolution are important, and averted vision (looking slightly to one side of the object) for seeing faint details. In the latter case, a dark opaque cloth covering your head down to your shoulders will help prevent unwanted light from streetlights, passing cars, and the glowing sky itself from ruining your dark adaptation. And finally, as a rule, the later at night you observe, the less light pollution you will have to contend with as businesses close, neighbors go to bed, and the busy world around you shuts down for the night.

The table appears on the next three pages (click below on Next Page). For more information, we have made the original version of this article, which appeared in the April 2003 Sky & Telescope., available. Click here to download Mullaney's 111 Deep-Sky Wonders for Light-Polluted Skies as a 900-kilobyte PDF file.

111 Deep-Sky Wonders for Light-Polluted Skies
ObjectConst.TypeRA    Dec.   Mag(s).SA 2000.0
M31AndGX0h 42.7m+41° 16'3.5 4
NGC 253SclGX0h 47.6m–25° 17'7.118
h CasCasDS0h 49.1m+57° 49'3.5, 7.2 1
g AriAriDS1h 53.5m+19° 18'3.9, 3.9 4
g AndAndDS2h 03.9m+42° 20'2.1, 4.8 4
NGC 869/884PerOC2h 21.0m+57° 08'4.3, 4.4 1
i CasCasMS2h 29.1m+67° 24'4.5, 6.9 1
M34PerOC2h 42.1m+42° 45'5.2 4
q EriEriDS2h 58.3m–40° 18'3.2, 4.118
M45 (Pleiades)TauOC3h 47.0m+24° 07'1.5 4
32 EridaniEriDS3h 54.3m –2° 57'4.7, 5.911
HyadesTauOC4h 20m   +16°     &nbsp11
AldebaranTauStar4h 36.1m+16° 31'0.911
R LepLepStar4h 59.6m–14° 48'8.111
RigelOriDS5h 14.7m –8° 12'0.1, 6.811
CapellaAurStar5h 16.9m+46° 00'0.1 5
M1TauNB5h 34.5m+22° 01'8.4 5
M42OriNB5h 35.4m –5° 27'3.711
s OriOriMS5h 38.7m –2° 36'3.7, 6.3, 6.7, 8.811
h 3780LepMS5h 39.3m–17° 51'11
g LepLepDS5h 44.5m–22° 27'3.6, 6.319
M37AurOC5h 52.3m+32° 33'5.6 5
BetelgeuseOriStar5h 55.3m +7° 24'0.511
M35GemOC6h 08.9m+24° 21'5.1 5
b MonMonMS6h 28.8m –7° 02'4.7, 5.2, 6.211
SiriusCMaStar6h 45.3m–16° 43'–1.412
M41CMaOC6h 46.0m–20° 45'4.519
12 LynLynMS6h 46.2m+59° 27'5.4, 6.0, 7.3 1
145 CmaCMaDS7h 16.6m–23° 19'4.8, 6.019
NGC 2392GemPN7h 29.2m+20° 55'9.2 5
CastorGemDS7h 34.6m+31° 53'2.0, 2.9 5
k PupPupDS7h 38.8m–26° 48'3.8, 4.019
z CncCncMS8h 12.2m+17° 39'5.6, 6.0, 6.312
M44CncOC8h 40.4m+19° 40'3.1 6
i CncCncDS8h 46.7m+28° 46'4.0, 6.6 6
M67CncOC8h 51.4m+11° 49'6.912
NGC 2903LeoGX9h 32.2m+21° 30'9 6
GX = Galaxy; GC = Globular cluster; OC = Open cluster; NB = Nebula; PN = Planetary nebula; DS = Double star; MS = Multiple star; SC = Starcloud; QSO = Quasar; RA and Dec. are equinox 2000.0; SA 2000.0 = Sky Atlas 2000 chart number

111 Deep-Sky Wonders for Light-Polluted Skies (continued)
ObjectConst.TypeRA    Dec.   Mag(s).SA 2000.0
M81UMaGX 9h 55.6m+69° 04'6.9 2
M82UMaGX 9h 55.8m+69° 41'8.4 2
g LeoLeoDS10h 20.0m+19° 51'2.6, 3.8 6
NGC 3242HyaPN10h 24.8m–18° 38'7.820
M95LeoGX10h 44.0m+11° 42'9.713
M96LeoGX10h 46.8m+11° 49'9.213
M105LeoGX10h 47.8m+12° 35'9.313
54 LeoLeoDS10h 55.6m+24° 45'4.3, 6.3 6
x UmaUMaDS11h 18.2m+31° 32'4.3, 4.8 6
M65LeoGX11h 18.9m+13° 05'9.313
M66LeoGX11h 20.2m+12° 59'913
NGC 3628LeoGX11h 20.3m+13° 36'9.513
3C 273VirQSO12h 29.1m +2° 03'12.714
M49VirGX12h 29.8m +8° 00'8.413
M87VirGX12h 30.8m+12° 24'8.614
24 ComComDS12h 35.1m+18° 23'5.1, 6.314
M104VirGX12h 40.0m–11° 37'814
g VirVirDS12h 41.7m –1° 27'3.4, 3.514
Y CVnCVnStar12h 45.1m+45° 26'5.2 7
M94CVnGX12h 50.9m+41° 07'8.2 7
a CVnCVnDS12h 56.0m+38° 19'2.9, 5.6 7
M64ComGX12h 56.7m+21° 41'8.5 7
MizarUMaDS13h 23.9m+54° 56'2.2, 3.9 2
SpicaVirStar13h 25.3m–11° 10'114
NGC 5128CenGX13h 25.5m–43° 01'721
w CenCenGC13h 26.8m–47° 29'3.721
M51CVnGX13h 29.9m+47° 12'8.4 7
M83HyaGX13h 37.0m–29° 52'7.521
M3CVnGC13h 42.2m+28° 23'6.3 7
ArcturusBooStar14h 15.9m+19° 11'–0.1 7
e BooBooDS14h 45.0m+27° 04'2.3, 4.5 7
M5SerGC15h 18.6m +2° 05'5.714
m BooBooMS15h 24.5m+37° 23'4.3, 7.0, 7.6 7
z CrBCrBDS15h 39.4m+36° 38'5.0, 6.0 7
x ScoScoDS16h 04.4m–11° 22'4.8, 7.315
b ScoScoDS16h 05.4m–19° 48'2.6, 4.922
GX = Galaxy; GC = Globular cluster; OC = Open cluster; NB = Nebula; PN = Planetary nebula; DS = Double star; MS = Multiple star; SC = Starcloud; QSO = Quasar; RA and Dec. are equinox 2000.0; SA 2000.0 = Sky Atlas 2000 chart number

111 Deep-Sky Wonders for Light-Polluted Skies (continued)
ObjectConst.TypeRA    Dec.   Mag(s).SA 2000.0
n Sco (AB)ScoMS16h 12.0m–19° 28'4.4, 5.422
n Sco (CD)—     —    6.7, 7.8
M4ScoGC16h 23.6m–26° 32'5.422
AntaresScoStar16h 29.6m–26° 27'1.122
M13HerGC16h 41.7m+36° 28'5.8 8
a HerHerDS17h 14.6m+14° 23'3.5, 5.415
M92HerGC17h 17.1m+43° 08'6.5 8
n DraDraDS17h 32.2m+55° 11'4.9, 4.9 3
M6ScoOC17h 40.3m–32° 16'4.222
M7ScoOC17h 53.8m–34° 47'3.322
M23SgrOC17h 56.9m–19° 01'5.522
NGC 6543DraPN17h 58.6m+66° 38'8.1 3
95 HerHerDS18h 01.5m+21° 36'5.0, 5.2 8
M8SgrNB18h 03.8m–24° 23'4.622
70 OphOphDS18h 05.5m +2° 30'4.0, 6.015
M24SgrSC18h 17.4m–18° 36'4.615
M17SgrNB18h 21.1m–16° 11'615
M22SgrGC18h 36.4m–23° 54'5.222
VegaLyrStar18h 37.0m+38° 47'0 8
e Lyr (AB)LyrMS18h 44.3m+39° 40'5.0, 6.1 8
e Lyr (CD)—     —    5.2, 5.5
M11ScuOC18h 51.1m –6° 16'5.816
M57LyrPN18h 53.6m+33° 02'8.8 8
q SerSerDS18h 56.2m +4° 12'4.6, 5.016
AlbireoCygDS19h 30.7m+27° 58'3.1, 5.1 8
M55SgrGC19h 40.0m–30° 58'6.322
M71SagGC19h 53.8m+18° 47'8.4 8
M27VulPN19h 59.6m+22° 43'7.3 8
o1 CygCygMS20h 13.6m+46° 44'3.8, 4.8, 7.0 9
a CapCapDS20h 18.1m–12° 33'3.6, 4.216
g DelDelDS20h 46.7m+16° 07'4.3, 5.116
NGC 7009AqrPN21h 04.2m–11° 22'816
61 CygCygDS21h06.9m+38° 45'5.2, 6.0 9
M15PegGC21h 30.0m+12° 10'6.316
M2AqrGC21h 33.5m –0° 49'6.617
m CepCepStar21h 43.5m+58° 47'4 3
z AqrAqrDS22h 28.8m –0° 01'4.3, 4.517
d CepCepDS22h 29.2m+58° 25'4.1, 6.3 3
NGC 7662AndPN23h 25.9m+42° 33'8.3 9
s CasCasDS23h 59.0m+55° 45'5.0, 7.1 3
GX = Galaxy; GC = Globular cluster; OC = Open cluster; NB = Nebula; PN = Planetary nebula; DS = Double star; MS = Multiple star; SC = Starcloud; QSO = Quasar; RA and Dec. are equinox 2000.0; SA 2000.0 = Sky Atlas 2000 chart number

While it's true that pollution in its various forms has sapped much of the quality out of modern living, the showpieces tabulated above at least illustrate that observers don't need to let bright skies rob them of the joys of stargazing. No matter where you live, the stars are still there for you to enjoy.

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