If you find yourself under a dark sky this spring with handheld binoculars, and if you’re up for a challenge, why not try some galaxy hunting? The spring night sky contains a veritable haystack of galaxies, and some, especially the brighter Messier ones, are common sights for binocular users. But a deeper layer of uncommon targets also lurks among the multitude. Some require at least 10x50 binoculars to see, but many objects you may have written off are, indeed, available to you through such optics.
The task requires a level of enthusiasm usually found only in a true hobbyist’s heart — someone who can get excited over seeing a handful of ill-defined motes of extragalactic “fluff.” Your success, on the other hand, may depend largely on the darkness and clarity of the night and your skill as an observer. The latter includes knowing exactly where to look, using averted vision, and having the patience and persistence necessary. My inspiration for this column was Astronomy reader Scott Harrington of Evening Shade, Arkansas, who has been cataloging galaxies visible through 7x35 and 8x56 binoculars with great success.
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