Sagitta and Vulpecula

Sagitta (the Arrow) and Vulpecula (the Fox) are constellations just south of the constellation Cygnus.

They are both quite faint and difficult to locate if you have any kind of light pollution at all.

Vulpecula does contain an interesting asterism called 'The Coathanger' or 'Brocchi's Cluster'.

How to find Polaris using 'The Plough'

To find Polaris (The Pole Star) you can use one of, if probably not, the most recognisable asterisms in the northern hemisphere, The Plough.

On a clear night look up and find The Plough (or The Big Dipper) and locate the two stars which form the blade of the plough, Merak and Dubhe.

Now, in your mind as you look at these stars, draw an imaginary line between Merak and Dubhe and extend the line north until you come to the relatively bright star, Polaris.


Aldebaran is an orange-red giant in the constellation of Taurus the bull and is sometimes coined as the bull's bloodshot eye.

It can seen due south in mid-December in the northern hemisphere and can be found by using Orions's Belt as a pointer and drawing an imaginary line that points north-west from the belt.


Saturn is the second largest of the gas-giants and telescopically the most beautiful of the planets. This is because Saturn has a ring system comprising of trillions of moonlets made of water ice and can be easily seen with quite a modest telescope. Binoculars will not show the rings but rather show Saturn as a bright yellow oblate blob, however a telescope will reveal the Cassini division in the rings and possibly some faint cloud structure.

Image: Saturn's position (ringed in red), as of 17 May 2009, among the outer planets in the Solar System. Image created with Solar System Simulator V4

Winter Triangle

The Winter Triangle is an asterism visible during the winter months in the northern hemisphere. It consists of three very bright stars including Sirius in Canis Major, Procyon in Canis Minor and Betelgeuse in Orion.

Coma Berinices

Coma Berinices is a constellation which lies directly north of the constellation Virgo and contains a prominent star cluster. The constellation, which means Berinice's Hair, was named after the legend of Queen Berenice II of Egypt.

Notable Features
M53, M64, M85, M91, M98, M99, M100


Procyon is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor and at only 11.4 light years[1] distance it is one of the closest of bright stars. Procyon is actually a binary system with the larger, Procyon A, being a bright main-sequence star and Procyon B it's white dwarf companion.

Image: Procyon's position in Canis Minor

Procyon is one of three stars which form the asterism, the Winter Triangle.


[1] Brilliant Starsby Patrick Moore - ISBN 0-304-34903-8


Betelgeuse is a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion. It's bright red colour and position as Orion's right shoulder make it unmistakable.

If you could place Betelgeuse where our Sun is it would engulf all of the planets up to and probably including Mars.

Image: At this small scale Betelgeuse dwarfs our Sun which appears as a small dot a few pixels wide.

Betelgeuse is one of three stars which form the asterism, the Winter Triangle.


Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major, is the brightest star in the night sky. This is not however due to it's size or true brightness (it's absolute magnitude) but the fact Sirius is only 8.7 light years[1] from Earth which in astronomical terms is quite close.

Image: Sirius' poisition in Canis Major

Sirius is actually two stars, a binary system comprising of Sirius A (The Dog Star) a white main-sequence star and Sirius B (The Pup-Star), a white dwarf star.

In Britain, Sirius is best viewed in late winter and appears as a very bright blue-white star south-east of the constellation Orion and is one of three stars which form the asterism The Winter Triangle.


[1] Brilliant Starsby Patrick Moore - ISBN 0-304-34903-8

The Earth

At about 93 million miles from the Sun lies the orbit of our planet Earth. Earth is the largest of the terrestrial planets and the only planet known to support life.

The Earth has an atmosphere which consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% argon and other gases [1] and water oceans which cover 71% of the Earth's surface [2].

The Earth has only one natural satellite, the Moon (or Luna) but has thousands of artificial satellites and on a clear night many of these can be seen just by looking up into the night sky. An artificial satellite may look like a faint dot moving between the stars or may appear as bright as the planet Venus in the case of the International Space Station.
Earth, The Blue Planet, is our home but observation of the Earth as a whole can of course only be acheived by leaving it's surface. There is one way however we can observe the Earth's disc and that is by viewing a lunar eclipse. This is because we are seeing the Earth's shadow pass over the surface of the Moon.


[2] Atlas of the Skies - ISBN 1-84406-011-X


Mars, named after the Roman god of war, is the fourth planet from the Sun and the last of the inner terrestrial planets. Out of all the planets of the Solar System Mars is the most 'Earth-like' having a thin atmosphere, polar icecaps, an axial tilt similar to Earth's and a similar length of day. That said it is still a pretty inhospitable place so only space probes have landed there so far.
Through a low power telescope Mars may appear as a rusty orange/red coloured disc with patches of grey.
Mars has two natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos translated as 'fear' and 'panic'!


Vega is a brilliant blue-white star in the constellation Lyra, it is best viewed from northern latitudes in the summer months. Vega, along with the stars Deneb and Altair form the asterism The Summer Triangle. If you were able to view Vega close up it would look a bit like an egg (an oblate spheroid) this is because it's rapid rotation causes the star to bulge at it's equator and flatten at it's poles.

Canis Major

Canis Major, the Great Dog, is a late winter constellation. It can be seen just south-east of the constellation Orion. It's brightest star Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky.

Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy or Messier 31 (M31) is a large spiral galaxy about two and a half million light years in distance from our own Milky Way galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is so called because it lies in the constellation Andromeda and on a dark clear night it is the most distant object that can be seen with the unaided eye. Low power binoculars will reveal M31 as a fuzzy blob.
The Andromeda Galaxy has two satellite galaxies, M32 and M110. All three Messier objects are known collectively as The Great Andromeda Nebula.


Mercury, smallest of the terrestrial planets and closest to the Sun. With it's orbit being so close to the Sun it is a tricky object to spot and it can only be see just after sunset or just before sunrise. As it is eay to mistake Mercury for a star the best way to find it is to check star charts or use a piece of software such as Redshift or Stellarium to find it's location.

Finding Mercury can be made easier if it happens to be near another brighter planet in the sky (see image below) then it is just a matter of locating the brighter planet to find Mercury nearby.

The above image is a reconstruction of the positions of Venus, Mercury and Jupiter as they appeared in the sky on 2 Jan 2009. Mercury can be seen just a few degrees from Jupiter.

Mercury's orbit is inside that of the Earth's so it can also be seen as a silhouette when it transits the Sun.