From the January 2024 issue

101 Weirdest Cosmic Objects

A strange brew of astronomical oddities awaits you and your telescope.
By | Published: January 2, 2024

Two years ago, our special January issue brought forth a popular package, 101 Must-See Cosmic Objects. Now we follow it up in a very different direction. My thought this time was to produce something covering not the brightest, but some of the strangest celestial objects you can see or image with amateur telescopes.

Some of the present 101 objects have strange names — Gyulbudaghian’s Nebula, Purgathofer-Weinberger 1, or Gomez’s Hamburger. Some are weird stars — Tabby’s Star, Eta Carinae, or FU Orionis. Some are strange regions of the sky filled with color and apparently exotic behaviors — Rho Ophiuchi, the Red Spider Nebula, or the Jewel Box.

Most of these 101 objects, however, are really compelling and odd ducks that can be explored from a dark-sky site. Want an astrophotographic challenge? Try shooting the nearby galaxies Maffei 1 and 2, which are so heavily obscured by the Milky Way that they weren’t discovered until 1967. How about spying really odd planetary nebulae? Take a shot at the Saturn Nebula, the Lemon Slice Nebula, or Jones 1.

With the right scope, you can see a quasar, 3C 273, from your backyard, or the galaxy with a quasar near it, NGC 4319 and Markarian 205, that caused a years-long controversy over redshifts as distance indicators. The sky is loaded with mysterious galaxies. Take a peek at Zwicky’s Triplet, Seyfert’s Sextet, or the Hercules Galaxy Cluster.

In short, you’ll find many hours of cosmic exploration in this issue, whether you spy some of these creatures with your own eyes, capture them with a camera, or merely enjoy reading about them on these pages.

Have fun with the journey. I’ll be taking it right beside you.