Astronomers and Star Gazers need a challenge when observing. Novices can be easily overwhelmed by long lists of challenging objects. Expert observers can be so focused on their projects, they easily can ignore the challenge provided by observing with different instruments.
By presenting three objects in each of several different groups, the hope is to provide all observers, no matter what their experience level, no matter what type of instruments they have access to, challenging objects to observe. There is even a group for the one instrument we are all born with, the naked-eye. Astrophotographers and astroimagers are not ignored here, either.
No matter what your experience, no matter what you use to observe, get outside and “Keep looking up!”
March’s Sky Challenges
- The constellation of Pyxis
- The constellation of Lupus
- The constellation of Camelopardalis
- M48, sixth mangnitude open cluster of about 80 members in Hydra. It has an apparent size of 54′.
- M44, a third magnitude open cluster of about 50 stars in Cancer. This large (95′ ) open cluster is known as the Beehive or Praesepe.
- The open cluster M67 in Cancer. It is about 29′ across and contains about 200 stars and shines at magnitude 3.1.
Small Telescope Challenges
- For 2″ to 6″ telescopes:
- Winter Alberio (HD 56577), a binary star in Canis Major lying about 1.6° north of τ Canis Majoris and 0.5° west (2000.0 coordinates are: R.A. 7h 16m 36.8s, Dec. -23 deg. 18′ 56″). This colorful pair has an orangish primary and a blue-white secondary.
- Messier 81, also known as NGC 3031 and Bode’s Galaxy, is a type SA(s)ab spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. M81 is one of the most striking examples of a grand design spiral galaxy, with near perfect arms spiraling into the very center. Because of its proximity to Earth, its large size, and its active galactic nucleus, which contains a 70 million solar mass supermassive black hole, M81 is a popular galaxy to study in professional astronomy research. The galaxy’s large size and relatively low apparent magnitude (lower magnitude implies higher brightness) also make it a popular target for amateur astronomy observations.
- M82, also known as NGC 3034 or the Cigar Galaxy, is the prototype nearby starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The starburst galaxy is five times as bright as the whole Milky Way and one hundred times as bright as our galaxy’s center. Although it has been classified as irregular galaxy, two symmetrical spiral arms were discovered in near-infrared (NIR) images of the galaxy. The arms eminate from the ends of an NIR bar.
Medium Telescope Challenges
- For 8″ to 14″ telescopes:
- The globular cluster, G1. G1 or Mayall II is located about 2.9 million light years away in the Andromeda Galaxy.
- Asteroid (26591) Robertreeves, formerly 2000 ET141
- 23 Ursae Majoris is a triple star. Its main components, 23 UMa A and 23 UMa B, are approximately 75.5 light years from Earth. The primary component, 23 Ursae Majoris A, is a yellow-white F0 IV type subgiant with an apparent magnitude of +3.65. At a separation of 22.7 arcseconds is the type A, 9th magnitude 23 Ursae Majoris B. A and B form a physical binary. The third, optical, component, 23 Ursae Majoris C, is a magnitude +10.5 star 99.6 arcseconds away.
Large Telescope Challenges
- For 16″ and larger telescopes:
- NGC 2419 is a globular cluster in the constellation Lynx. NGC 2419 is at a distance of about 300,000 light years from the solar system and at the same distance from the galactic center. This 10th magnitude globular cluster is also known as the “Intergalactic Wanderer”. This name was given to it when it was thought that it was not in orbit of the Milky Way.
- PK219-31.1 is a 12th magnitude planetary nebula in Cancer with an apparent diameter greater than 980″
- At a distance of 24 million light years away, the SA(s)cd class galaxy NGC 2541 is close enough to see the many HII regions that glow in the dim disk of this loose spiral. This particular galaxy is not alone in the sky towards the constellation of Lynx. Like our own Local Group of galaxies, NGC 2541 is part of a group which includes NGC 2500, NGC 2537, and NGC 2552. The similarity in distances between these galaxies and those of the Local Group says much about the non-uniqueness of our corner of the Universe.
- Novice: any constellation
- Intermediate: any galaxy
- Expert: any asteroid
Extra Credit Challenge
The Jackalope is one of the rarest animals in the world and are extremely shy, unless approached.
As gentle as these creatures may seem, they are in truth, killer rabbits. And as such are very aggressive and unpredictable, and should not be provoked for any reason.
It has also been said that the jackalope can convincingly imitate any sound, including the human voice. It uses this ability to elude pursuers, chiefly by using phrases such as “There he goes! That way!” During days of the Old West, when cowboys gathered by the campfires singing at night, jackalopes could often be heard mimicking their voices.
It is said that a jackalope may be caught by putting a flask of whiskey out at night. The jackalope will drink its fill of whiskey and its intoxication will make it easier to hunt. It has also been said that jackalopes will only breed during electrical storms including hail, explaining its rarity.