Being in Cavan for a weeks well earned holidays I got my first look at a clear dark sky for a very very long time so out I went armed with no more than a simple pair of Binoculars (10×50) for some hands on practical astronomy. It was great to see the Milkyway blazing across the sky, you just don’t see that in Maynooth. You’ll be amazed at just how much you can see with just a pair of Binoculars that I got for 20 Euro in Lidle!

Probably one of the hardest types of object to see without a telescope are galaxies but you’d still be amazed how many you can see with Binoculars, some practice and a clear dark sky. Tonight I managed to observe four:

  • The Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Mind you that is not really saying much since you can see it with the un-aided eye under Cavan’s dark skes!
  • The Triangulum Galaxy (M33). This is one of my favourites because it is one of that rare class of objects that I can see relatively easily with my Binoculars but which is pretty much completely invisible in even the college’s 10" telescope because it is so big and spread out!
  • M81 & M82 in the plough. These are two galaxies that are stunning in a telescope but for some bizarre reason always seem to get over-looked by amateur astronomers.

I also had a look at the nicest of the Planetary Nebulae (dying stars), the Dumbbell Nebula (or M27 to Astronomers). Since most planetary nebulae are tiny you generally need a telescope to see them but M27 appears big on the sky because it is close to us so it’s within the range of my 20 Euro binoculars.

I also did the rounds of the Globular clusters getting good views of the two easiest (M13 and M3) and also managed to glimpse the smaller, more compact and hence harder to see M15 in Perseus.

I did of course also observe a few of the easiest objects to observe, Open Clusters:

  • As normal I kicked off proceedings by observing probably the easiest and most spectacular binocular object of them all, the Double Cluster in Perseus (NG869 & NGC884). No matter how often you see this object it still looks stunning!
  • I also got a look at another easy but beautiful cluster, M39, which sits in the heart of the Milkyway in at the top of Cygnus.
  • I also had a look at one of the cuter ‘clusters’, the Coat Hanger Cluster which is, as it’s name suggests, a cluster of stars arranged in the shape of a coat hanger. It’s not strictly speaking a cluster but it is too cute not to checkout when you get the chance IMO.
  • I also checked out one of my old favourites, IC4665 in Ophiuchus which is another realy easy to see cluster that almost no one knows about just because it didn’t make Charlie’s (Charles Messier’s) list.
  • Finally, I also got my first ever look at M11 in Scutum. TBH I only came across it by accident because I was randomly scanning the Milkyway, I had no idea it was so bright and easy to see!