Due to its magnificent profusion of bright stars, Orion dominates the author's selection of seasonal doubles. Most of the doubles described in this article can be split with 3-inch (76-millimeter) telescopes, and several appear double even through binoculars.
Courtesy Akira Fujii.
People often wonder why astronomers get excited about observing two or three points of light in close proximity. Star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies seem more glamorous, but double stars are the underappreciated gems of the night sky. Unlike other deep-sky wonders, they are easily located and viewed even when the sky is hazy, moonlit, or light-polluted. They are suited for astronomers of all experience levels: many can be split easily at low magnifications, while others are a challenge even in the largest instruments. Their simplicity is deceptive; they display an endless variety of tints, magnitudes, separations, and (in the case of multiple stars) configurations. And literally thousands lie within reach of the smallest telescope.
My article "Double Stars for the New Year" on page 100 of the January 2005 issue of Sky & Telescope lists 25 of my favorite stellar pairs visible during the Orion season, and includes a table that provides much information about each. Here is a detailed description of eight of them.