Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 December 2010
The first “good” telescope I ever owned was an 8-inch f/7 Newtonian reflector known as the RV-8. It was made by the Criterion Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, and given to me by my parents as my sole Christmas gift in 1971. I have received uncountable gifts at Christmases since, but none will stand the test of time like that telescope. True, I had owned a couple of smaller telescopes beforehand, but the RV-8 was not just a telescope. It was a spaceship that catapulted me out into the real universe for the first time.
Here are a variety of challenging targets suitable for intermediate apertures that will take us both into the real, and sometimes, surreal universe.
Although it is one of the faintest constellations along the zodiac, Cancer the Crab hosts a variety of targets to test our mettle during the early spring. Spotting M44, the Beehive Cluster, by eye alone may prove very challenging for suburban observers, while the Crab's underappreciated second open cluster, M67, may also reach naked-eye visibility from more rural environs. While the constellation boasts a variety of challenging galaxies, in the test here, we will try our luck with one of the constellation's prettiest binary stars, Zeta (ζ) Cancri.
Many “best of” lists include Zeta as a spring showpiece target, so there is a good chance that you have already crossed paths. Zeta's two brightest suns, known as Zeta-1 and Zeta-2, were discovered in 1756 by German physicist/astronomer Johann Tobias Mayer.