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What to See in the Autumn Night Sky

By , Saturday 14th September 2013 in Sky at Night

As the warm nights of summer give way to crisp autumnal evenings, there's plenty of autumn deep sky objects to see in the night skies.

In the west after sunset is the constellation of Hercules, which is home to magnificent autumn deep sky objects, the globular cluster M13 which was the first star cluster I observed and imaged. The M13 globular cluster is visible in binoculars from a site with dark skies, and is a superb target for a small telescope.

In the nearby constellations of Lyra and Vulpecula you'll also find two beautiful planetary nebulae. M57, the Ring Nebula appears as a grey ring through a 6 to 8 inch telescope, while the dumbbell nebula, M27, looks like a fuzzy patch of faint light.

M22 is the third brightest star cluster visible in the northern hemisphere and is known to contain at least 75,000 stars. It's low altitude means that it is often overlooked, but at magnitude +5.1 makes it a naked eye object and a fine target for small telescopes. It is fairly easy to see in the low southern skies in the constellation of Sagittarius, approximatley half way from Nunki to µ Sgr. M28 lies nearby, and although lower again
Location of Globular Cluster M22
Location of Globular Cluster M22

 

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and Triangulum Galaxy (M33) are the real showpieces of the autumnal skies. Both are visible to the naked eye from dark sky sights, and both fine binocular targets. A small telescope will show M31's satellite galaxies M32 and M110, as well as the galaxies dust lanes.

You can find M33 by following the line from the star Mirach to Upsilon Andromedae, and extending it about the same distance in a straight line.

Location of M31 Andromeda Galaxy
Location of M31 Andromeda Galaxy

 

M33 can be found just less than two thirds of the way between the stars Hamal in Aries, and Mirach in Andromeda. Through a small telescope it will appear as a faint, oval shaped patch of light, while larger telescopes should be able to pick out more detail under dark skies.
Finding M33, the Triangulum Galaxy
Finding M33, the Triangulum Galaxy

 

Finally there are some striking double stars on show in autumn. The blue and gold pair of Albireo, the head of Cygnus, is perhaps the most impressive, and the equally impressive "Double Double" Epsilon Lyrae should not be overlooked.

Autumn Meteor Showers

Autumn is a very quiet time for meteor showers, the only one of note is the Orionids which last throughout October and into early November. You can expect a rate of 20-25 meteors per hour. The shower starts around the 2nd October and lasts until around the 7th November.

Autumn Constellations

Autumn is an ideal time to observe the following constellations.

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About the Author

Tim Trott

Tim is a professional software engineer, designer, photographer and astronomer from the United Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.

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