111 Deep Sky Wonders for Light-Polluted Skies

Deep Sky Wonders: The Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) is visible in binoculars, even from within a city.

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 deep sky 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!

Orion Nebula
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 hidden treasures appear on Sky & Telescope's monthly centerfold star map.

Observing Tips

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.

Pleiades
The Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus is a fine example of an open star cluster.

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.

Deep Sky Wonders and Deep Sky Objects to Observe

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. 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
Object Const. Type RA     Dec.    Mag(s). SA 2000.0
M31 And GX 0h 42.7m +41° 16' 3.5  4
NGC 253 Scl GX 0h 47.6m –25° 17' 7.1 18
h Cas Cas DS 0h 49.1m +57° 49' 3.5, 7.2  1
g Ari Ari DS 1h 53.5m +19° 18' 3.9, 3.9  4
g And And DS 2h 03.9m +42° 20' 2.1, 4.8  4
NGC 869/884 Per OC 2h 21.0m +57° 08' 4.3, 4.4  1
i Cas Cas MS 2h 29.1m +67° 24' 4.5, 6.9  1
M34 Per OC 2h 42.1m +42° 45' 5.2  4
q Eri Eri DS 2h 58.3m –40° 18' 3.2, 4.1 18
M45 (Pleiades) Tau OC 3h 47.0m +24° 07' 1.5  4
32 Eridani Eri DS 3h 54.3m  –2° 57' 4.7, 5.9 11
Hyades Tau OC 4h 20m +16°     &nbsp 11
Aldebaran Tau Star 4h 36.1m +16° 31' 0.9 11
R Lep Lep Star 4h 59.6m –14° 48' 8.1 11
Rigel Ori DS 5h 14.7m  –8° 12' 0.1, 6.8 11
Capella Aur Star 5h 16.9m +46° 00' 0.1  5
M1 Tau NB 5h 34.5m +22° 01' 8.4  5
M42 Ori NB 5h 35.4m  –5° 27' 3.7 11
s Ori Ori MS 5h 38.7m  –2° 36' 3.7, 6.3, 6.7, 8.8 11
h 3780 Lep MS 5h 39.3m –17° 51' 11
g Lep Lep DS 5h 44.5m –22° 27' 3.6, 6.3 19
M37 Aur OC 5h 52.3m +32° 33' 5.6  5
Betelgeuse Ori Star 5h 55.3m  +7° 24' 0.5 11
M35 Gem OC 6h 08.9m +24° 21' 5.1  5
b Mon Mon MS 6h 28.8m  –7° 02' 4.7, 5.2, 6.2 11
Sirius CMa Star 6h 45.3m –16° 43' –1.4 12
M41 CMa OC 6h 46.0m –20° 45' 4.5 19
12 Lyn Lyn MS 6h 46.2m +59° 27' 5.4, 6.0, 7.3  1
145 Cma CMa DS 7h 16.6m –23° 19' 4.8, 6.0 19
NGC 2392 Gem PN 7h 29.2m +20° 55' 9.2  5
Castor Gem DS 7h 34.6m +31° 53' 2.0, 2.9  5
k Pup Pup DS 7h 38.8m –26° 48' 3.8, 4.0 19
z Cnc Cnc MS 8h 12.2m +17° 39' 5.6, 6.0, 6.3 12
M44 Cnc OC 8h 40.4m +19° 40' 3.1  6
i Cnc Cnc DS 8h 46.7m +28° 46' 4.0, 6.6  6
M67 Cnc OC 8h 51.4m +11° 49' 6.9 12
NGC 2903 Leo GX 9h 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)
Object Const. Type RA     Dec.    Mag(s). SA 2000.0
M81 UMa GX  9h 55.6m +69° 04' 6.9  2
M82 UMa GX  9h 55.8m +69° 41' 8.4  2
g Leo Leo DS 10h 20.0m +19° 51' 2.6, 3.8  6
NGC 3242 Hya PN 10h 24.8m –18° 38' 7.8 20
M95 Leo GX 10h 44.0m +11° 42' 9.7 13
M96 Leo GX 10h 46.8m +11° 49' 9.2 13
M105 Leo GX 10h 47.8m +12° 35' 9.3 13
54 Leo Leo DS 10h 55.6m +24° 45' 4.3, 6.3  6
x Uma UMa DS 11h 18.2m +31° 32' 4.3, 4.8  6
M65 Leo GX 11h 18.9m +13° 05' 9.3 13
M66 Leo GX 11h 20.2m +12° 59' 9 13
NGC 3628 Leo GX 11h 20.3m +13° 36' 9.5 13
3C 273 Vir QSO 12h 29.1m  +2° 03' 12.7 14
M49 Vir GX 12h 29.8m  +8° 00' 8.4 13
M87 Vir GX 12h 30.8m +12° 24' 8.6 14
24 Com Com DS 12h 35.1m +18° 23' 5.1, 6.3 14
M104 Vir GX 12h 40.0m –11° 37' 8 14
g Vir Vir DS 12h 41.7m  –1° 27' 3.4, 3.5 14
Y CVn CVn Star 12h 45.1m +45° 26' 5.2  7
M94 CVn GX 12h 50.9m +41° 07' 8.2  7
a CVn CVn DS 12h 56.0m +38° 19' 2.9, 5.6  7
M64 Com GX 12h 56.7m +21° 41' 8.5  7
Mizar UMa DS 13h 23.9m +54° 56' 2.2, 3.9  2
Spica Vir Star 13h 25.3m –11° 10' 1 14
NGC 5128 Cen GX 13h 25.5m –43° 01' 7 21
w Cen Cen GC 13h 26.8m –47° 29' 3.7 21
M51 CVn GX 13h 29.9m +47° 12' 8.4  7
M83 Hya GX 13h 37.0m –29° 52' 7.5 21
M3 CVn GC 13h 42.2m +28° 23' 6.3  7
Arcturus Boo Star 14h 15.9m +19° 11' –0.1  7
e Boo Boo DS 14h 45.0m +27° 04' 2.3, 4.5  7
M5 Ser GC 15h 18.6m  +2° 05' 5.7 14
m Boo Boo MS 15h 24.5m +37° 23' 4.3, 7.0, 7.6  7
z CrB CrB DS 15h 39.4m +36° 38' 5.0, 6.0  7
x Sco Sco DS 16h 04.4m –11° 22' 4.8, 7.3 15
b Sco Sco DS 16h 05.4m –19° 48' 2.6, 4.9 22
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)
Object Const. Type RA     Dec.    Mag(s). SA 2000.0
n Sco (AB) Sco MS 16h 12.0m –19° 28' 4.4, 5.4 22
n Sco (CD) 6.7, 7.8
M4 Sco GC 16h 23.6m –26° 32' 5.4 22
Antares Sco Star 16h 29.6m –26° 27' 1.1 22
M13 Her GC 16h 41.7m +36° 28' 5.8  8
a Her Her DS 17h 14.6m +14° 23' 3.5, 5.4 15
M92 Her GC 17h 17.1m +43° 08' 6.5  8
n Dra Dra DS 17h 32.2m +55° 11' 4.9, 4.9  3
M6 Sco OC 17h 40.3m –32° 16' 4.2 22
M7 Sco OC 17h 53.8m –34° 47' 3.3 22
M23 Sgr OC 17h 56.9m –19° 01' 5.5 22
NGC 6543 Dra PN 17h 58.6m +66° 38' 8.1  3
95 Her Her DS 18h 01.5m +21° 36' 5.0, 5.2  8
M8 Sgr NB 18h 03.8m –24° 23' 4.6 22
70 Oph Oph DS 18h 05.5m  +2° 30' 4.0, 6.0 15
M24 Sgr SC 18h 17.4m –18° 36' 4.6 15
M17 Sgr NB 18h 21.1m –16° 11' 6 15
M22 Sgr GC 18h 36.4m –23° 54' 5.2 22
Vega Lyr Star 18h 37.0m +38° 47' 0  8
e Lyr (AB) Lyr MS 18h 44.3m +39° 40' 5.0, 6.1  8
e Lyr (CD) 5.2, 5.5
M11 Scu OC 18h 51.1m  –6° 16' 5.8 16
M57 Lyr PN 18h 53.6m +33° 02' 8.8  8
q Ser Ser DS 18h 56.2m  +4° 12' 4.6, 5.0 16
Albireo Cyg DS 19h 30.7m +27° 58' 3.1, 5.1  8
M55 Sgr GC 19h 40.0m –30° 58' 6.3 22
M71 Sag GC 19h 53.8m +18° 47' 8.4  8
M27 Vul PN 19h 59.6m +22° 43' 7.3  8
o1 Cyg Cyg MS 20h 13.6m +46° 44' 3.8, 4.8, 7.0  9
a Cap Cap DS 20h 18.1m –12° 33' 3.6, 4.2 16
g Del Del DS 20h 46.7m +16° 07' 4.3, 5.1 16
NGC 7009 Aqr PN 21h 04.2m –11° 22' 8 16
61 Cyg Cyg DS 21h06.9m +38° 45' 5.2, 6.0  9
M15 Peg GC 21h 30.0m +12° 10' 6.3 16
M2 Aqr GC 21h 33.5m  –0° 49' 6.6 17
m Cep Cep Star 21h 43.5m +58° 47' 4  3
z Aqr Aqr DS 22h 28.8m  –0° 01' 4.3, 4.5 17
d Cep Cep DS 22h 29.2m +58° 25' 4.1, 6.3  3
NGC 7662 And PN 23h 25.9m +42° 33' 8.3  9
s Cas Cas DS 23h 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.

COMMENT