December Night Sky

The recent run of clear nights has been good for observing, but also, of course, cold. This will be a test of your cold weather clothing. I find people new to observing may bring sensible coats, hats, gloves etc, but often  neglect their feet. You really need to bring boots that provide some insulation, and ideally are waterproof, plus thick socks. Wellies won’t do. Mountain walking boots are fine. If you have skiing gear, that should do very well.

The other problem is the telescope. Lenses and mirrors exposed to the night sky will tend to dew up, though dew shields and various electrical heating devices can mitigate the effects. But the other problem is that eyepieces and binoculars get so cold that they mist up just from coming close to your (warm, moist) eye, let alone your breath. One way you can reduce this effect for eyepieces is to keep them in the pockets of your coat. Check other contents first!

Auriga is a favourite target for me at this time of year. It has 3 well known open clusters, M36, M37, and M38. All are easy binocular objects, and offer more detail through telescopes. But your preference between them may depend on the size of your scope. The stars of M37 are probably fainter, but there is a great profusion of them, and in my 12″ Dob at high power it is magnificent.

Going back up to M38, in the map below, and to the right and a little down the chart shows quite a profusion of features. I have never succeeded in seeing the Flaming Star nebula, but the other nebula nearby (actually IC 410; NGC 1893 is the associated Open Cluster) is rather fine, especially with a OIII filter. And this whole area has lots of interest.

Auriga Dec 2016