Here is a list of 7 night sky objects which have delighted stargazers for centuries. On account of their size, they can also be viewed either with the naked eye or with a pair of binoculars or telescope.
The Moon is believed to have formed around 4.5 billion years ago and has an average distance from Earth of 384,400 km (238,900 miles). The Moon has a diameter of 3,476 km (2,000 miles), and the surface we see from Earth has roughly the same area as the whole of Africa.
When we look at the Moon, we see a light greyish colour known as maria (singular mare) comprising around 16% of the lunar surface. These are enormous craters caused by asteroid or comet impacts which filled up with volcanic magma and later cooled to form dark, basaltic areas. Their rims form mountain ranges. By contrast, the lighter regions indicate higher ground and are known as terrae or highlands. While a full moon may look impressive, when the Sun light comes from the side the resulting quarter moon or less will cast long shadows which highlight its features more clearly.
Certain planets can easily be seen by the naked eye, namely Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and have thus been known to astronomers since ancient times. Mercury is the most difficult to see as it is relatively small and located close to the Sun, whereas Venus appears as a spectacular bright, white light around sunrise and sunset. However, the use of a good quality 4.5″ telescope will reveal more intricate details of these other worlds, such as Jupiter‘s four Galilean moons and its Great Red Spot. Likewise, Saturn‘s yellow colour and beautiful ring system can be observed with a telescope or, under good conditions, Mars‘ white polar caps and even its atmospheric clouds.
Milky Way Galaxy
Meteor Showers present some of the most stunning sights for sky watchers and are caused by cosmic debris, known as meteoroids, entering Earth’s atmosphere. These debris trail are often left by a particular comet, and as the Earth’s orbit passes through its path the particles enter our atmosphere and a meteor shower occurs. Meteor showers are usually named after the constellation in which they appear to emmenate, such as the Perseids from the constellation Perseus or the Leonids from the constellation Leo. Every year, stargazers are treated to a number of regularly occuring Meteor Showers, the most impressive of which can produce more than 1,000 meteors each hour. The most famous meteor showers of the year include the Perseids , Orionids, Leonids, and Geminids.
Orion Nebula (M42)
The Orion Nebula (M42) is located 1,344 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Orion and found below the mythological hunter’s belt in the three stars which represent his sword. However, in 1610 it was discovered that the middle “star” was, infact, a massive cloud of dust and gas known as a nebula, a stellar nursery in which stars are actively forming. Although it appears fuzzy to the naked eye, the use of binoculars or a small telescope will easily reveal its basic structure. Interstingly, the Orion Nebula is 24 light years across and appears larger than the Moon. However, you will only be able to make out its brightest middle part, along with its central core stars known as the Trapezium.
Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
The Pleiades (M45)
This beautiful star cluster is located 440 light-years from Earth and is also known as the ‘Seven Sisters’ on account of the number of its most visible stars. However, there are actually around 500 mostly young blue stars in this beautiful cluster of stars. The Pleiades star cluster is easily found by drawing a line from Orion’s belt, past Aldebaran in Taurus to this magnificent collection of young blue stars aged just 100 million years old.