Fall Observing Targets Mainly for the Backyard or Dark Sky Areas!

Well, I am going to present a variety of objects to go after during a new moon session here in September of 2016.  These objects are good fall objects and I recommend if your at a dark site, a mild dark site to give them a go. In light pollution, you may find some good to go while others a challenge. Then again, it never hurts to try! The charts in objects 1 - 4 are inverted. 5-6 are normal.

1. Helix Nebula NGC 7293

The Helix Nebula is a large planetary nebula found in the constellation of Aquarius, about 650 light years away (LINK).  This is a case of a star, near the size of of our own Sun, has ended it's life on the main sequence, burned through its layer of hydrogen and helium and has separated from its outer envelope that results in the nebula. The star has become condensed to the size of the earth, with most of its former mass being compacted into the new object, called a White Dwarf Star, which is about the size of the earth. One suger cube of this White Dwarf Material would weigh about 15 tons! (Link).  This is a large object so a wide field, low power eyepiece is necessary to see it.

Wide field view of where the Helix PN is located. 

 Above is the Star Hop to the Helix Nebula (not the only one, just the one I use. You can find your own of course!). 

2. NGC 7252 Atoms for Peace Galaxy.

Okay, this is not a huge spiral like M51 but what it represents is rather cool. "The loops of gas and dust and stars that encircle NGC 7252 look somewhat similar to the orbits of electrons around the nucleus of an atom. Perhaps better seen in wide-field images, NGC 7252’s appearance has earned it the nickname the ‘Atoms of Peace’ Galaxy, after a phrase coined by President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower in 1961, regarding using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."  In truth, it is dim at magnitude 12.7 and the larger the instrument the better for seeing this galaxy. Realize in this NASA link from which I look the quote, this is two galaxies that have merged, with a spiral in the center rotating opposite that of the galaxy.  LINK.  Unless you have a telescope with large enough aperture, you probably are not going to detect the tidal tails as in this photo LINK, though if your experienced, with a large enough dob you just may. Great one for imagers to go after though!

3. NGC 7814 Spiral Galaxy (Edge On) or The Little Sombero in Pegasus. This galaxy is about 40 million light years away in the Constellation of Pegasus.  Rather easy to star hop if you study out the finder chart I have provided it does look like a smaller version of that spring favorite the Somberro Galaxy, thus the name The Little Sombero. Magnitude about 11.7 it is a good one from any dark or semi dark site, though a bit mroe challenging from the backyard. 

This chart above lets you see where the galaxy is located. Make sure you have Pegasus lined up right, it can tilt easy in the fall. 

The actual star hop I recommend but feel free to find your own. 

4. NGC 457 The Owl or ET Open Cluster.  This object can be seen from a light polluted backyard or from a sub-urban outreach site.  It has two bright eyes, arms that seem to extend out and a triangle that makes up the legs.  Some call it the ET Open Cluster; some the Owl Open Cluster, some Wally from the Disney Animated Movie and some, well, what does your eye see here? Here is some information from the One Minute Astronomer on it: LINK

7. NGC 7662 The Blue Snowball Planetary Nebula in Andromeda.  
This is a planetary nebula that I have seen from my backyard using a 8" and a 10" dob.  Information on the object is at this Wikipedia LINK. Here are the findercharts. The first long star hop is long and it is easy to get lost, but it is often how I use to find this object. The second way from Lacerta is easier for me so I have included it. You will get plenty of practice star hopping with this object and finding so have a filter if possible, OIII or UHC and a good wide field eyepiece in 20mm to 24mm range. 

Here is the full field for this object. 

Here is the LONG star hop from Pegasus that gets you to the Blue Snowball, NGC 7662 Planetary Nebula. What do you see when you get there? 

Here is the star hop coming from Lacerta if you can view that constellation in your sky. This again, is the easier star hop for me, though you do hop a lot here. The end object is worth and it does have a blue snowball appearance to it. Good luck finding this one! Remember to take your time and enjoy finding it! 

There you go. Some challenging objects if your in the backyard (you won't see the Atoms for Peace galaxy in a suburban backyard. You need a dark sky for it). You should be able to see all of them and though I have left out Messier 31, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Double Cluster you should be able to find those two wonderful objects on your own. Lots of other wonderful items to look at in the fall like NGC 7331 a galaxy in Pegasus; M76 The Little Dumbell Planetary Nebula in Perseus;  Messier 103 and 52 Open Clusters in Cassiopeia; Messier 34 another Open Cluster in Perseus; Messier 74 in Pisces (one of the best galaxies, a face on spiral); Messier 77 in Cetus, another wonderful galaxy. Most of those if you have good horizons and a decent backyard should be viewable as well. If you don't have an atlas and want to know where to hunt one of those down, leave a comment and request it and I'll update this post for you. Have a wonderful time observing this fall!