Gene Hanson Website - Beginner's Guide

 

Beginner's Guide

Binocular Asterisms

Though this page would not really be considered beginner material, there's no reason a beginner can't try finding these objects once you can basically navigate your way around the sky. We also hope that more experienced amateurs find this page if they're searching for asterisms to view. We present all of these with a simulated binocular view and a wide naked-eye sky view to show their position. Please note that because sky conditions are always variable (moonlight, light pollution, thin clouds, etc.) the simulated view will never exactly correspond.

Below we present 21 examples of asterisms best seen in binoculars. A couple are also naked-eye asterisms, but they are included here because we feel they are better viewed in binoculars. The simulated binocular view (about a 7.5° field) is on the left; the finder chart on the right. On all the charts North is up. All coordinates are epoch J2000.0 and as centered as possible in the asterism formation.

As is the case with all fainter celestial targets, some are easier to find then others. We'll start with the easier ones.

 

Dipper Bowl / Pleiades / M45

RA: 03h 47m, Dec: 24° 11m - The Dipper Bowl is the five brightest stars of the Pleiades.


"S" in Orion

RA: 05h 34m, Dec: -0° 46m


Job's Coffin / Mini Kite

RA: 20h 42m, Dec: 15° 23m - Formed by the four brightest stars of Delphinus, α, β, γ, and δ Dephini shown with the blue lines. If you include η, ε and κ Delphini (the pink lines), it can be alternatively viewed as the Mini Kite.


Little Cassiopeia

RA: 22h 25m, Dec: 49° 29m - Formed by five stars from the constellation Vulpecula. The brightest is magnitude 3.7 and the faintest 4.5. Because it's both fairly small and relatively faint, it makes for a better binocular asterism.


Frederick's Glory

RA: 23h 40m, Dec: 45° 27m - Proposed as a constellation separate from Andromeda in 1787 to honor Frederick the Great, the king of Prussia who had died in the previous year. You can read more about it here. It is no longer in use (outside of being an asterism) and today it is entirely part of Andromeda.


Northern Fly

RA: 2h 46m, Dec: 28° 03m - Musca Borealis (Latin for Northern Fly) was once a constellation, but is now simply part of Aries. It is formed by the stars 33, 35, 39, 41 Arietis.


Herman's Cross

RA: 19h 57m, Dec: -26° 44m - A cross formed by four stars: ω, 59, 62, and 60 Sagittarii.


Coathanger

RA: 19h 26m, Dec: 20° 06m - The Coathanger is part of Brocchi's Cluster (aka Collinder 399, Cr 399 or Al Sufi's Cluster) which is in the constellation of Vulpecula near the border with Sagitta. Especially if viewed upside down, there is little question as to why it's named the Coathanger.

Many consider this to be the best binocular or telescopic asterisms and one of them is the Astronomical League. The image at the right is the award pin for their Asterism Observing Program which uses the coathanger as its symbol. Even if you're not interested in earning the award, if you have any interest in asterisms we encourage you to check out this page. They have a listing of 112 naked-eye, binocular, and telescope asterisms.



Question Mark

RA: 2h 36m, Dec: 6° 53m - An unmistakeable asterism in the constellation Cetus.


Home Plate

RA: 0h 08m, Dec: 40° 35m - This asterism field is located just west of M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) which is very conspicuous in binoculars. With a binocular FOV of 7.5° you can just barely put Home Plate and M31 in the same field.


Golf Putter

RA: 1h 52m, Dec: 37° 26m - Located in Andromeda, it is a ine of stars with two brighter ones for the club head. NGC 752 is the ball.


Kemble's Cascade

RA: 4h 00m, Dec: 62° 46m - Kemble's Cascade (also Kemble 1) is located in the constellation Camelopardalis. It is a fairly straight line of more than 20 5th to 10th magnitude stars over a distance of about 2.5 degrees. It appears to flow into the open cluster NGC 1502. It is named for Father Lucian Kemble. Read more about this asterism on Wikipedia.


Davis' Dog

Davis' Dog constellation lines. Would coyote or fox be a better fit? - Stellarium RA: 4h 22m, Dec: 21° 31m - This asterism for Massachusetts observer John Davis who spotted the "Dog" in this star field. Some might quibble that this is not really an asterism because the star field is not obvious, so don't feel bad if you can't see this one. At the right is a diagram of this field showing the "constellation" lines. You can see a larger view by clicking/tapping here or on the image. Do you think this dog is pretty skinny? You're not alone. The usual explanation is that this dog is a Dachshund, but with the long tail you might go with a coyote or fox.



Boomerang

RA: 7h 13m, Dec: -26° 42m


Star Gun

RA: 7h 16m, Dec: -0° 01m


Fly and Fly Swatter

Fly and Fly Swatter asterism with figure lines - StellariumRA: 10h 37m, Dec: -12° 48m

The Fly and Fly Swatter asterism is composed of 5 stars make the swatter and 3 stars for the handle. The star U Hydrae is the fly about to be zapped by the flyswatter.

U Hydrae is a carbon star which varies between magnitude 4.7 to 5.2. It is one of the reddest stars in the sky.



Sea Horse

RA: 13h 11m, Dec: -23° 56m


Baby Scorpion

RA: 14h 48m, Dec: -26° 39m


Kemble's Kite

RA: 3h 25m, Dec: 71° 41m - This is another asterism named for Father Lucian Kemble who was the first to describe it.


Lucky 7 and the Airplane

Lucky 7 and the Airplane asterism figures - Stellarium Lucky 7  RA: 13h 11m, Dec: 59° 33m

Airplane  RA: 13h 21m, Dec: 62° 13m

This field is located in Cassiopeia and fairly close to M52, an open star cluster which is really a telescopic object. Though the Lucky 7 figure is easy to make out, the Airplane may not be. At the right are asterism figures for these asterisms and shows the position of M52. Do you agree with the Airplane? Alternatively, it can be also viewed as a dragonfly or swan.