This month will feature the zodiac constellation Gemini, which reaches overhead (Zenith) at prime observer time of 8 -9 PM PST in February.
Easily located by the 1st magnitude stars, CASTOR and POLLUX. There are a few interesting objects the can be seen by a small telescope.
CASTOR: This is a beautiful, bright double star that can be split at higher magnifications (100x or more). The combined apparent magnitude is 1.6
But each component is 2.0 and 2.9. The separation is increasing to reach the farthest point in 2065. When I started observing 50 years ago, Castor
was a difficult double to split. Now, it’s easy. What lowest magnification can you discern both stars separated? Approximate 50 Light Years distant.
R.A. 7h 35m Dec.+32
M-35: A spectacular Open Star Cluster, sometimes called the “Jewel Box Cluster”. Many bright stars in a “chevron” shape. Use low magnification.
M-35 is 2600 Light Years distant. If the sky is transparent, you might see the distant cluster (NGC 2158) in the background, 14,000 Light Years away!
R.A. 6h 09m Dec. +24
NGC 2392: The “Eskimo” Planetary Nebula. This is a tiny round, green planetary nebula. Use 100 magnification. The details can be seen in large telescopes and astro-imaging.
NGC 2392 is a typical planetary nebula with a faint white dwarf in the core, the last stages of stellar death. Distance is 1400 Light Years.
The image was taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
R.A. 7h 29m Dec +21
The BEST astronomy is EXPERIENCING astronomy
I am recommending a few telescopes (in my opinion) that can qualify some (but not all) factors that people are looking for.
These factors are: Budget, Ease of Use, Weight, Complexity, Simple to Set Up, Light Gathering Power, Planetary & Lunar, Deep Sky and Astrophotography.
#1. ORION 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Reflector.
This basic 8 inch diameter telescope can get big, bright images in a big way. The cost is under $400. Set up and ease of use is the best part.
Also, you can purchase eyepieces and a better finder scope later on but the standard equipment will do as a starter.
This telescope works fine for planetary, lunar and deep sky observing. Alt-Azimuth mount is easy to use.
I recommend this telescope for both observing sites: City and Remote dark sites. It is great for planetary observing and great for star clusters, nebulae and galaxies!
Light Gathering Power is 1024x (compared to unaided eye) and maximum magnification is 480x
The size and weight (30 lbs) can be a problem as storage and carrying. The telescope must be covered after use as the mirror can get dusty and tarnished.
Astrophotography is extremely limited to the moon and bright planets as the telescope will not track.
The Earth’s motion moves the images out of view after a few minutes so plan on manual tracking yourself.