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23 May

Galaxies in Ursa Major

Posted by Optics Blog Experts on

One of the first thing beginning astronomers learn is that the things we astronomers like to see in our telescopes and astronomy binoculars are not evenly distributed across the sky – some constellations seem to packed to the gills with things to see in the telescope eyepiece and others seem almost barren by comparison. It’s all just a matter of the perspective from our earth-based platform in space, of course; a matter of coincidence as to what we can see from this planet. The view would be quite different were we observing on a planet in another star system.

This distribution of things to see when we setup & use a telescope is also a matter of what types of things we want to observe. Ursa Major (Great Bear), home of the Big Dipper, is a good example. The Great Bear is not a treasure trove of open star clusters, because it bit off the plane of our galaxy, but that same position allows you to see far beyond the reaches of our own Milky Way galaxy. That means seeing other galaxies far beyond our own, so, if you like hunting for galaxies in your telescope, Ursa Major and the nearby constellation of Canes Venatici are great places to visit. This area of the sky will keep you well supplied with targets, assuming you have a large enough telescope to see an appreciable number of galaxies. Living as far north as I do, Ursa major is high in the sky for me, this time of year and that makes it all the better for hunting galaxies with my telescopes. The other night, for instance, my eyes gave out long before I saw all the galaxies that my 12.5” Dobsonian telescope is capable of seeing.

There’s nothing like taking a trip of millions of light years, right from your own yard and Ursa Major is a great place to start.

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