All About Space

Our winter galaxy

We reach the outer edge of the Milky Way as we hit the darker days


During the much colder months of the year, we can enjoy the longer hours of the night for extended tours and observatio­ns of targets in the night sky. Sadly, winter isn’t the best time of year to observe the Milky Way, as our planet looks towards the sparser regions of our galaxy – the outer portion of the disc.

However, that’s not to say that the Milky Way doesn’t hold a degree of wonder during the winter. Stars still clump together in the splash of white that’s characteri­stic of our galaxy as it laces through the constellat­ions Canis Major (the Great Dog), Monoceros (the Unicorn), Orion (the Hunter) and Puppis (the Poop Deck), bringing with it a spectacula­r selection of objects for stargazers to enjoy.

12 Messier 47

Constellat­ion: Puppis

Right Ascension: 07h 36m 36s Declinatio­n: -14° 30’ 00” Magnitude: +4.2

Minimum optical aid: Naked eye

It’s possible to view the coarse brightness of this open star cluster with the naked eye under very good night-sky conditions. However, the 50 stars found within the cluster won’t be resolved so easily without the assistance of a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Messier 47’s swarm of young stars takes over a portion of the night sky around the same size as the full Moon.

13 Rosette Nebula and NGC 2244

Constellat­ion: Monoceros

Right Ascension: 06h 33m 45s Declinatio­n: +04° 59’ 54” Magnitude: +9.0 (Rosette Nebula), +4.8 (NGC 2244) Minimum optical aid: 10x50 binoculars

The Rosette is a giant ring nebula in Monoceros, and NGC 2244 is a young star cluster that has emerged from that nebula. Spotting the cluster is easy in binoculars or a small telescope, but seeing the nebula visually is difficult without a large telescope, dark sky and ultra-high-contrast filter.

14 Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis)

Constellat­ion: Orion

Right Ascension: 05h 55m 10s Declinatio­n: +07° 24’ 25.42”

Magnitude: +0.2 to +1.2

Minimum optical aid: Naked eye

It’s not hard to spot the orange-red hue of the ninth-brightest star in the night sky. You can use a telescope or binoculars to view red giant Betelgeuse, but you’ll see nothing more than you can with the unaided eye.

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