Updated: Nov 20
To begin your stargazing journey in a heavily light polluted city can be really challenging. Here's our quick guide to help you find some spectacular objects you can observe even from city skies. All the objects from the list below have been personally observed through a pair of 10x50 binoculars from Mumbai, India by the author.
Following are 10 of those objects starting from the brightest and getting fainter as we move along the list.
1. Orion Nebula
With a magnitude of 0.4, the Orion Nebula is the most easily visible deep sky object. Also known as Messier 42 or M 42, It is a diffuse nebula which is ~ 1,344 light-years away and is an active site of Star Formation.
Look for Orion's Belt with it's 3 bright stars, below which you'll be able to see a bright blob which is the Orion Nebula.
2. Hyades Cluster
The Hyades Cluster is basically the head of the Bull in the Taurus Constellation and is the nearest and one of the best-studied open star clusters which is ~153 light-years away. With a magnitude of 0.5, this cluster can be seen with binoculars in the night skies of a city.
Find the Taurus constellation with the stars forming a 'V' Shape which forms the head of the bull with a bright red star on the left called Aldebaran.
The Pleiades Cluster is an open star cluster of Magnitude 1.6. The cluster is known as the Seven Sisters/Krittika nakshatra in India or as Messier 45.
It is an open star cluster 444 light-years away from the sun and the most obvious celestial object to the naked eye in the Taurus constellation.
Imagining the body of the bull in Taurus, the Pleiades Cluster is at the lower back of the bull.
(Fun fact - In Nordic culture, this cluster was also called 'Mjolnir' or Thor's Hammer)
4. Beehive Cluster
The Beehive Cluster, also known as M44 or Praesepe, which is Latin for "manger", is an open cluster ~610 light-years away with an apparent magnitude of 3.7 in the constellation of Cancer. Look for the constellation of Cancer and just around the mid point, you'll be able to find this beautiful open cluster.
5. Theta Tauri
Theta Tauri is a wide double star system, a member of the Hyades open cluster, approximately 152 light-years away. A double star or an optical binary means that it is not really bound together by gravity but appears to be together due to their orientation with respect to Earth.
Look at the left side of the 'V' shape star formation in Taurus. On the left side of this 'Face' below the bright red star Aldebaran, you'll be able to see this double star structure, one Red and one Blue.
6. Messier 41
Messier 41 or M 41 is an open cluster, ~2,300 light-years away, discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654 and was perhaps known to Aristotle about 325 BC, In the constellation of Canis Major. Look for the Brightest star in the night sky,Sirius (yup, J.K. Rowling, took a lot of inspiration from astronomy), to get an idea of the shape of this Dog Constellation. This open cluster is kind of in the mid region of the dog. Trace a path going left and down to Sirius and you should be able to find this Cluster.
7. 22 Orionis
22 Orionis also known as o Ori (omicron Ori), is a Binary star system - meaning the two stars are gravitationally bound and are revolving around each other. This system is visible to the naked eye as a faint, blue-white hued star.
Find Orion's belt in the Orion constellation. To the right of this belt and little below, you should be able to observe this binary system. You'll know its the 22 Ori binary system by its bluish colour.
8. Trapezium Cluster
The Trapezium Cluster, also known as Theta 1 Orionis, is a tight open cluster of stars in the heart of the Orion Nebula, which consist of 5 bright stars in the shape of a Trapezium, hence it's name.
It you have found the Orion Nebula, this structure is easy to fin. It is just on the top of the Orion Nebula structure. You should be able to View this Cluster, with your Binoculars even from the city Skies.
9. Messier 35
Messier 35 or M 35 which is an open star cluster, ~3,870 light-years away, scattered over an area of the sky almost the size of the full moon!
Find the constellation of Gemini and scan your binoculars towards the bottom of the constellation. If you can identify Castor just scan with your binoculars, below this bright star and you will be able to spot this big beautiful Cluster.
10. Messier 36
Messier 36 or M 36 is an Open star cluster in the Auriga Constellation,~4,340 light-years away, discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654, who described it as a nebulous patch. Find the pentagon structure of the Auriga constellation. At the mid point of the shorter side, trace your binoculars to the inner side of the constellation and this cluster should be visible to you.
In case you are new to Stargazing and you want some assistance in identifying the constellations, you could use free applications to help you identify them. We recommend Stellarium for Desktop, and Google sky Maps for Android and IOS users. We hope to collate a list of helpful apps for you, soon, in our next post!
Hope you find this list useful. If you do observe the objects from this list, do let us know which were your favourite objects to observe. And if you think we have missed a name in our list do comment and share with us below.
Most of the images are clicked in-house by Shivam Joshi & Pooja Tolia. Some others are screenshots from the software Aladin Sky Atlas. The photograph of The constellation of Cancer is from wikimedia commmons.