A Pair of Nice Nebulae
The Orion and Dumbbell Nebulae are lovely sights in small scopes.
Beyond our galaxy the deep sky expands to include countless galaxies each containing their own wonders. To start you on your journey into the deep sky, here are two clouds of interstellar gas that are easy targets in binoculars from suburban locations.
The Orion Nebula
There's no brighter nebula visible from midnorthern (or southern) latitudes than the Orion Nebula (M42), located within Orion, the Hunter (You can find Orion the Hunter and other constellations using SkyandTelescope.com's Interactive Sky Chart). It lies below that constellation's three belt stars and makes a great target for any brand new Christmas telescope. Through binoculars the nebula looks like a fuzzy star with a bright center.
If you zero in with a telescope, you should see a tiny crooked square of blue-white stars called the Trapezium. They are surrounded by a glowing cloud with a mottled texture. If the sky is relatively dark (no moonlight and your backyard is in the suburbs) you should see two wings of light arcing from either side of the nebula's bright core.
If it looks like the Trapezium stars are lighting up the nebula, you're right. These are hot stars recently formed in collapsing clouds of dust and hydrogen gas. Ultraviolet light from these and other stars embedded in this emission nebula causes the gas to glow.