Your astronomical guide to finding your way around some of spring's greatest treasures
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Voyager space probes embarked on an ambitious and sweeping ‘grand tour’ of the outer Solar System. During their tour they swung around and past Jupiter, Saturn,
Uranus and finally Neptune, transforming what had been dots in the sky into real worlds. This month we’re going to show you how you can go on your own grand tour – not of the worlds that orbit far from the Sun, but of the night sky.
The spring sky offers amateur astronomers and sky watchers a treasure chest of celestial wonders and delights, and many are easy to find. By ‘star-hopping’ carefully from constellation to constellation, then patiently hopscotching from one star to another, even an inexperienced amateur can track down many different fascinating objects in just a single evening as winter retreats and the spring evenings start to stay lighter for longer.
This feature will be your guide to a grand tour of the spring sky, taking in many different types of astronomical object. It will guide you to a giant, swollen star approaching the end of its life; a beautiful, glowing nebula where stars are being born; a glittering open star cluster; a misty globular star cluster; the ghostly remains of a long-dead star and even a star with an exoplanet known to be circling it.
Although many of the objects featured in our grand tour are visible to the naked eye, you will need some extra help with some, so you’ll need a pair of binoculars or small telescope if you’re going to see everything on the tour itinerary.