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Top 10 Small Telescope and Binocular Objects

In this article we will target what are the top 10 small telescope and binocular objects that should be on your list for your next night out under the stars. Each astronomical object listed below will give breathe taking views using nothing more than a reasonably good set of binoculars or a small telescope that won’t break the bank.

So what are the top 10 small telescope and binocular objects in the night sky? To get you started, here is our short list!

  1. Moon
  2. Saturn
  3. Jupiter
  4. Andromeda Galaxy
  5. Hercules Cluster
  6. Dumbbell Nebula
  7. Orion Nebula
  8. Mizar and Alcor
  9. Albireo
  10. Double Cluster

Continue reading to get viewing tips, interesting facts and figures, gear and tech recommendations for our top 10 list so you’re well equipped for your next stargazing adventure!

Okay, so you’re planning to spend some time beneath the blanket of stars and want to get awed by the enormity and beauty of the celestial bodies in our galaxy. Nothing gives more absolute pleasure than tracing some beautiful celestial bodies and understanding their finer features.

You can consider this article as a guide of sorts to be used when planning your next dark sky adventure. Feel free to print it and take it along with you so you have it in your hands when contemplating which way to turn your telescope or aim your binoculars next.

Alright, so let’s get into everything you’re going to want to know about these celestial bodies, the gear you’ll need to get exquisite views, and some viewing tips to go along with it! So without further adieu, let’s jump right in!

1. The Moon

The moon is without question one of the best celestial objects to view for both new and seasoned amateur astronomers. The moon will reveal breathe-taking views with nothing more than a good set of astronomical binoculars or a small telescope.

Image source: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Here are some of the facts and figures which you need to know before you gaze away to glory at this celestial beauty:

  • Mons Huygens is the tallest mountain on the Moon. It is 4700 metres tall, which happens to be approximately half the size of the tallest mountain flaunted by Earth, Mt Everest (8848m).
  • It is the only natural satellite of the Earth and happens to be the fifth largest moon in our Solar system.
  • The Moon is roughly 384,403 kilometers away, which is the approximate distance between the Earth and the Moon.The climate in the Moon is very extreme. During the day, the average surface temperature of the Moon is 107 degrees Celsius while the night temperature is -153 degrees Celsius. So you will melt in the morning and solidify at night.
  • The diameter of the Moon is 3,746 km, which is approximately 27% the size of the Earth.

The Moon is best viewed during its two quarters when the sun is showering its rays on it from either right or left side. If you view the moon during its full moon phase, then you might be left disappointed as you will not be able to see any finer details. This is due to the fact that the sun is showering its light on the moon from overhead and hence the Moon might appear empty.

To get the best moon gazing moments and experience, you can go for something like the Meade Infinity Refractor Telescope, consisting of low, medium and high magnification glasses. You can also have your moon viewing experience with Orion 20×80 Astronomical binoculars.

2. Saturn

Who wouldn’t want to view the most beautiful planet, having a radius of 58,232 km, in the Solar System! One of the least dense planets which is 1.43 billion kilometers away from the sun and having gorgeous rings glorifying the look of this planet. If you go for a Saturn gazing experience you will be transported to a different world…literally!

Here are some interesting facts and figures about Saturn:

  • Saturn spins extremely fast. In fact, Saturn spins so quickly on its axis that the planet appears to be a flat land.
  • Saturn has 62 moons. Of the 62 moons, Titan and Rhea are the largest one.
  • A day in Saturn lasts for 10 hours, 32 minutes, 35 seconds. Imagine having to go for your work or school after every 10 hours. Phew!
  • The diameter of Saturn is 123,000 km, which is approximately 9.5x the size of the Earth.

The rings of Saturn make the planet huge and easily visible even through a small telescope, but unfortunately for this object binoculars won’t quite cut it!

Even with a smaller aperture telescope, the rings of Saturn appear to give a 3D effect to the planet while viewing. I did an more indepth article around Saturn’s makeup and composition, feel free to check out Does Saturn Have Clouds? after you’re done here!

I’m quite surprised how cheaply you can pick up a good small telescope on Amazon these days. Of the ones I looked at, I would recommend an Orion AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope having an aperture of 4.7” to get an all round good view of this beautiful planet.

Some other solid choices would be the Celestron NexStar 4 SE Telescope, and the Meade Infinity Refractor both of which flaunts an aperture of 4”.

3. Jupiter

To view the largest planet in our solar system is an overwhelming feeling in itself. This massive structure which is 2.5 times larger than all the planets put together, and having a revolution period of 11.9 years, will definitely be worth the view during your celestial gazing sojourn.

Here are some of the facts and figures of Jupiter:

  • It is the fastest spinning planet in the solar system, flaunting a rotational speed of 12.6 km/s.
  • Jupiter has rings. Yes, you heard it right. It is not just Saturn, who can flaunt having rings. Jupiter has 3 main segments in its rings but it is not much visible.
  • Jupiter has between 67 and 79 moons including the famous ones like Ganymede, Europa, Callisto, Io to name a few, orbiting its axis.
  • Its magnetic field is 14 times stronger than Earth.
  • Jupiters diameter measures 142,980 km, making it approximately 11.2x larger than the Earth.

Jupiter is the 3rd brightest object in our solar system after Venus and the Moon, and all you’ll need is a telescope with an aperture within 4 to 6 inches or a good high powered pair of binoculars to view it. In fact, four of the largest moons can be seen and if the skies are dark enough, some color bands too, with these next small telescope and binocular recommendations available on Amazon for a great price: 

4. Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

This is our beautiful neighbor next door; the closest galaxy nearest to the Milky Way has a collection of 1 trillion stars and blessed with a massive diameter of 220,000 light years which is easy to spot with the right telescopes and binoculars.

Here are some of the facts and figures about Andromeda Galaxy:

  • The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy (like ours), and consists of an estimated 1 trillion stars (Milky way has between 200 – 400 billion).
  • It is travelling at a speed of approximately 100 to 140 kilometers per second and is supposed to collide with the Milky Way Galaxy within approximately 4.5 billion years to form an elliptical galaxy.
  • Apart from the bright and massive stars, it has a minimum of one massive black hole hidden within the core of the cluster.Andromeda consists of at least 2 spiral arms which are distorted by the gravitational force of 2 neighboring galaxies, M32 and M110.
  • Distance is approximately 2.5 million light years away.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest galaxy which you can spot with a naked eye. Before you go and view the finer details of Andromeda, ensure that you are away from bright lights so that you can easily spot it above Cassiopeia (the “W” constellation).

Some of the best gear you can make use of to view Andromeda is the:

5. Hercules Cluster (M13)

The Hercules Cluster is without question one of my “go-to” objects in the night sky. It is approximately 2,000 light years away from us and is aged somewhere around 13 billion years old. Its family of stars consists of 300,000 stars. Hercules is one of the prime candidates for celestial gazing.

Here are some of the facts and figures about the Hercules Cluster:

  • Its central region is denser than its peripheral region. The central region is 500 times more compact than the outer area of the cluster.
  • It is also known as M13 and its brightest star is called V11 which is bright red in color.
  • The core region is so densely packed that about 100 stars will fit into a cube with about 3 light years distance on each side.
  • It is a Magnitude: 5.8 Globular Cluster.

Hercules can be viewed best during May, June and July as it is visible throughout the night during this period. Generally it is said that Hercules is not visible after midnight on normal days.

To find it start by finding “The Keystone”, four stars of the constellation Hercules that form a trapezoid. You’ll find M13 lies on the line between Eta Herculis and Zeta Herculis.

For the best viewing experience you’ll need a powerful pair of binoculars or a good telescope with an aperture of 7 inches or more. I recommend checking out the following:

6. Dumbbell Nebula (M27)

The first planetary nebula to be discovered, Dumbbell Nebula, also known as Messier 27 or M27, is approximately 1,360 light years away from Earth and is situated in Vulpecula. Nebula is formed when planets and stars are nearing their end and is ejecting gaseous substances.

Here are some of the facts and figures about the Dumbbell Nebula:

  • This celestial beauty is aged approximately 15,000 years and flaunts a size of 15 arcminutes.
  • The Dumbbell Nebula is basically a dying star which has been ejecting hot, colorful gaseous matter into the space for nearly 48,000 years.
  • It’s a Magnitude 7.4 and has a surface temperature of about 85,000 K.
  • It measure approximately 1.44 light years across.

M27 consists of myriad dark patterns of various colours. The nebula will appear as a mist in your telescope surrounding some objects which are the stars. In order to get a finer view of these patterns and colors, you can gear up with the:

7. Orion Nebula (M42)

This compact mist of gaseous cloud and dust is 1,344 light years away from Earth. The Orion Nebula gives us an unadulterated glimpse of how new stars are formed and can be found just below the famed Orion’s Belt as part of Orion’s sword.

It is truly one of the brightest, and most impressive nebulae and given the right condition (very dark skies, and a clear night) it can be seen with the naked eye.

Here are some important facts and figures about the Orion Nebula:

  • The Orion Nebula is not just a group of young stars, t belongs to a much larger nebula called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.
  • It is the Earth’s closest massive star region, with new stars being born as we speak.
  • The four stars at its center are called “Trapezium”. The brightness, Magnitude 4, of the Orion Nebula is attributable to the presence of these newly formed stars and the gases that are ionized around them.
  • Also known as M42, Orion flaunts off having thousands of stars where the age of the young stars can be pegged from 10,000 years to 300,000 years old.

The Orion Nebula can be best viewed during the months of November to April. It is best viewed in places with very low light pollution, meaning, the further from the city you go the better. You can easily watch the Orion Nebula with the help of:

8. Mizar and Alcor

The famous star duo, Mizar and Alcor are situated 86 light years away from the Earth and can be visible through the naked eye if you know where to locate it. Mizar and Alcor fall under the group of Ursa Major cluster and are just 0.28 light years apart from each other.

Here are some other facts and figures about Mizar and Alcor:

  • Mizar arrangement consists of 4 stars named Mizar Aa, Mizar Ab, Mizar Ba and Mizar Bb whereas Alcor arrangement consists of 2 stars, named Alcor A and Alcor B.
  • Therefore, Mizor and Alcor duo is an amalgamation of 6 stars in totality.
  • In earlier days, they served as eye test to check the visuals of a person.
  • The temperature of Mizar is 9,000 K and Alcor is 8,000 K. Compare this to 5,778 Kelvin that our sun reaches – these stars burn much hotter.
  • Alcor orbits Mizar approximately once in every 750,000 years.

You can easily view Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper’s handle with the help of:

9. Albireo

This celestial beauty is an amalgamation of 2 stars called Albireo Aa and Albireo B which is 30 light years away from each other. It forms part of Cygnus constellation. Albireo Aa and Albireo B makes a very attractive pair with Albireo Aa glimmering bright in its yellow shade and Albireo B shining bright in light blue.

Here are some interesting facts and figures about Albireo:

  • Albireo is the 5th brightest star in the constellation after Alpha Cygni, Gamma Cygni, Delta Cygni, and Epsilon Cygni
  • Albireo’s age is a whopping 100 million years and it is sometimes best to view these two stars slightly out of focus to allow the colors to become more prominent.
  • Despite coming as a pair from Albireo arrangement, Albireo Aa and Albireo B do not have much physical similarities.
  • Albireo Aa has a temperature of 4,270 K and is 430 light years away from Earth, whereas Albireo B has a surface temperature of 13,200 K and is 400 light years away from Earth.

Albireo can be viewed with the same instruments as Mizar and Alcor. You can equip yourself with:

10. Double Cluster (NGC 869 and NGC 884)

You have myriad options when it comes to star gazing. You have Albireo and Orion vying for your attention and as if that is not enough, now there is another constellation called the Double Cluster which promises to give you a surreal gazing experience.

The Double Cluster belongs to the constellation Perseus and is largely touted as one of the finest clusters for a small telescope. To find, look for the constellation Cassiopeia and follow the inner leg of the shallow half of the “W”. About two-thirds of the way down to the next brightest star, you’ll find it.

Click here for star maps of both Perseus and Cassiopeia.

Here are some of the facts and figures about the Double Cluster:

  • Part of a huge constellation called Perseus. It is also famed for being known as Perseus’s sword handle.
  • It is 7,502 light years away from the Earth.
  • The Double Cluster of Perseus is named as NGC 884 and NGC 869. The Double Cluster does not come under Messier’s list.
  • Best time to view the Double Cluster is during dark nights in winter.

You can view Double Clusters with the help of any astronomical binoculars like:

Next Steps…

For the benefit and convenience of our readers, we have collated a list of top 10 binoculars and telescopes from this article. Be sure to check out this great gear on Amazon before venturing out on your next dark sky adventure!

Here is a list of comprehensive top 10 binoculars you can choose from for your celestial adventure:

Here is a list of comprehensive top 10 small telescopes you can chose from for your celestial adventure:

Additional Readings

I hope this article has given you some things to think and learn about before your next star gazing journey.

Please check out some of my other equally interesting articles: