Like many observers, I enjoy a combination of things to look at but I am happy to limit myself to just a couple of objects in one session.
“Turn Left at Orion” is an essential guide for the visual observer. It suggests good targets and explains how to find them. It also shows you what you can expect to see through the eyepiece.
It is not a race or box-ticking exercise. The universe will still be there tomorrow so slow down.
Planning before you go out is vital but you need to be flexible in order to accommodate different conditions. I only target dim galaxies when I have dark skies and definitely not when there is a full moon.
My top targets
- The moon when it’s not full so there is a terminator casting shadows over the surface.
- Double Stars especially coloured binaries – these look great even if the sky is not dark! Top Tips – Almach, Alberio
- Clusters and star fields – With a large aperture telescope these look amazing. The brightness and 3D effect are mesmerising. Top Tips – The Double Cluster (NGC 869 and NGC 884) in Perseus, The Great Cluster M13 in Hercules.
- The Planets and their moons – Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Mars and Venus (in that order)
- Brighter nebulae and objects from the Messier and NGC catalogues. Top Tips – Ring Nebula M57 in Lyra, the Orion Nebula M42 and Trapezium
- Dimmer, more difficult Deep Sky Objects (DSO) when conditions are right. Top Tips – M51a Whirlpool Galaxy, M81/M82 Bodes and Cigar Galaxies, Leo M65/M66 pair.
- Other “time-limited” objects like Nova, comets and meteors as they come along!
111 Deep Sky Wonders – https://skyandtelescope.org/wp-content/uploads/MullaneyDeepSky111.pdf
What can you actually see?
Forget the pretty Hubble and stacked pictures you will see posted everywhere and be realistic about what to expect. Most DSOs are dim, fuzzy patches. If you want colourful, detailed images of galaxies forget using an eyepiece and be prepared to invest a lot of time and money into a digital set up. There are many objects that you can see through an eyepiece that will look fantastic.
Recommended reading – http://www.deepskywatch.com/Articles/what-can-i-see-through-telescope.html