Grand tour

Your as­tro­nom­i­cal guide to find­ing your way around some of spring's great­est trea­sures

All About Space - - Contents - Writ­ten by Stu­art Atkin­son

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.

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