Impress your friends and family

Over the last couple of weeks at we’ve made a few videos showing you how to find various objects in the Southern Sky. Some of these objects have been the obvious, big and famous ones that most people are familiar with, but we’ve also included some objects which are off the beaten track and will help you inspire and amaze your family and friends as you show them these. This article puts them all together and gives you some interesting information about each object so you can talk about the objects as you show people and they’ll think you’re an expert. Of course, if you are showing these objects to an expert then, maybe, let them do the talking.

Eta Carinae Nebula (Eye, Binos, Telescope)

In this video we showed you how to find the awesome Eta Carinae Nebula, which is huge and easy to spot and is even visible to the naked eye just up the Milky Way from the Southern Cross. A good way to impress your friends is to call the objects by their catalog numbers, so Eta Carinae Nebula is NGC 3372. It’s about 6,500 to 10,000 lights years away and is huge and has the massive star Eta Carinae in the middle of it. In 1841 this star had a big flare up making it the second brightest star in the sky and ejected a huge amount of material that now makes it tricky to see the star.

Omega Centauri (Eye, Binos, Telescope)

This is the massive Globular Cluster that sits to the north of the Southern Cross in the Southern Sky and it’s catalog number is NGC 5139. It can be found by following the instructions in this video and is very easy to find. In the light polluted skies of Wellington it’s a tall order to see with the naked eye but looks great in binoculars. In a telescope you should be able to resolve stars very easily. This globular cluster is thought to have once been it’s own galaxy and all that is left is the galactic centre, with, possibly, a black hole.

NGC 4833 (Binos, Telescope)

NGC 4833 is a bit more of a challenge to find than the massive and impressive Omega Centauri, it’s 22,000 light years away and is in the constellation of Musca, just next door to the Southern Cross. The amazing thing about this globular cluster is that the stars are over 12 billion years old! So hugely ancient. This object can be found by following the directions in this video. It’s a faint round blob in binoculars and the stars are just resolvable in a telescope under the light polluted skies we view it under in Wellington, it is partially obscured by the dust from the Milky Way.

47 Tucanae (Eyes, Binos, Telescope)

The video here shows you how to find this absolutely gorgeous globular cluster that’s visually located near to the Small Magellanic Cloud. It’s catalog name is NGC 104 and it’s about 15,000 light years away. This globular cluster is very bright and easily spotted with the naked eye – even in Wellington. There are nearly 1 million stars in this cluster and it’s 120 light years across. Another interesting statistic about this cluster is that it is approaching us at a speed of 19km/s.

M41 (Binos, Telescope)

This is an awesome open cluster located quite close to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius in Canis Major. This video shows how to find this cluster, also known as NGC 2287. There is some thought that it may have been observed by Aristotle way back in 325BC, you can’t see it from Wellington with the naked eye, though in a dark sky location it might be possible. So this one has a bit of history to it.

The Tarantula Nebula (Binos, Telescope)

The Tarantula Nebula can be found in the Large Magellanic Cloud, this video will help. The amazing thing about this huge nebula is that if it was as close as the Orion Nebula, it would cast a shadow. What would really impress your friends is when you tell them that this nebula is in another galaxy about 160,000 light years away. It’s catalog name is NGC 2070.

The Ghost of Jupiter Nebula (Telescope)

This great little planetary nebula is also known as NGC 3242 and is found along the very long constellation of Hydra running between the Southern Cross and below Canis Major. This video shows how to find this amazing little deep sky object. The distance to NGC 3242 is somewhere between 1500 and 2500 light years. It’s the result of a star that has expelled it’s outer layers as fusion has run out in the core. This is kind of how the Sun will die, giving astronomers a few thousand light years away a nice nebula to have a look at in about 5 billion years.

The Blue Planetary Nebula (Telescope)

This video show how to find NGC 3918, the other name for the Blue Planetary Nebula. This little nebula, like NGC 3242 above, is the remains of the outer layers of a star, not unlike our Sun. It has a very distinct blue colour, hence it’s name, and is quite small. In fact, in looking for it, it is easy to mistake it for a star in a telescope finder. In the 8” reflector we got some good views with the 9mm eyepiece. This little nebula is about 4100 light years away.

NGC 2808 (Telescope)

This object is a great globular cluster and can be found quite easily, this video describes how to find it. This globular cluster, though visually not as impressive as Omega Centauri or 47 Tucanae, is one of the biggest globular clusters around the Milky Way. It 31,000 light years away, so considerably more than 47 Tucanae at 15,000 light years. This cluster is also extremely old, about 12.5 billion years.

Where to find everything (except M41, which is over by Sirius)

So there you go, nine deep sky objects that you can impress you friends and family with. Once you’ve found them a couple of times each then you’ll easily remember how to find them again.