12 star hops,December.

img_4183img_4182Find your target on a star chart. Look for the nearest bright stars and constellation shapes. You can hop

then hop to your target. Use angles , shapes and virtual clock faces in the sky. Search at x40-x50 in your scope. It’s great fun to hunt these down and is a great way of getting to know your sky.

Let’s kick off with some easy ones,

1. The double cluster in Perseus. Half way between Ruchbah in Cassiopeia and Mirphak in Perseus.

On good nights , you should see a small puff here. NGC 869 is the brightest with NGC having an empty “hole” in its centre.

2.M76, the “Little Dumbell” – a faint planetary nebula.Make a triangle using Almach ( lovely binary) and Mirphak. You should spot it at x40.

3. M34, a great overlooked open cluster. Use the Almach,Algol and Mirphak triangle.

4. Find Auriga and make a “kite ” shape from theta ( Bogardus) to ι. Half way along is line is the huge cluster M38. Note the tiny compact cluster NGC 1907. A binocular view will show you the “grin” of the asterism, the “Cheshire Cat”. Drop down to find the smaller M37. Down again and left and there’s M37, a very fine compact cluster.

5. M35   A lovely cluster with a compact more distant companion, NGC 2158. Make a triangle from μ to η.

6. The “Eskimo Nebula”, NGC 2392.Head straight out from Wasat . This lovely green blue planetary nebula is worth exploring at x200. You should get the halo and the central white dwarf star.

7. NGC 2169, open cluster.From Betelgeuse in Orion head up to the “elbow”. You’ll find a bright cluster shaped “37”. There’s a lovely double , the brightest star of the “3”.

8. NGC 2264, the “Christmas Tree ” cluster set in the Cone nebula. A lovely Christmas tree shape. The triple 15 Monocerotis is at the base of the tree.

9.NGC 2244, the cluster set in the “Rosette nebula”. A fabulous nebula in photos.

10.Sigma Orionis, a fabulous curved triple star. Just drop straight down from Alnitak.this star always rises due east , if you ever get lost !

11. Beta  Monocerotis, the best triple in the northern sky, really bright and spectacular, head along Orion’s Belt to a bright star.

12. “Hind’s Crimson Star”, the best red ( Carbon) star. This drop of blood is known as the vampire star in the USA. Head out from Rigel into Lepus. Smaller aperture will give you more colour.

Once you get the hang of star hopping you can find all sorts of fabulous things. I’ll add NGC 2302, look under no.8 on the chart to find “Hagrid’s Dragon” under,

clear skies ! Nick.

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