Naked Eye Astronomy

how to learn stargazing

4 space phenomena observable with the naked eye

Astronomy is not only for people who own a telescope. There are many objects that can be observed and identified with the naked eye in the night sky. If you go out on a clear night, you will probably already name some of the most famous constellations, but you may not be aware of everything you can see only with your eyes. And not just stars ! An observer can see planets, comets and galaxies. Sometimes seeing and identifying an object just with your eyes can be a more rewarding experience than using a telescope.

We have selected four fantastic phenomena visible if you are out on a dark and clear night. For objects such as the Milky Way, you will have to be in an area with low light pollution.

Big Dipper

big dipper

Credits : Till Credner [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

  • Constellation : Big Dipper (Ursa Major)
  • Right Ascension : 10,67 h
  • Declination : +55,38°

Also known as “the Plough”, “the big wagon” or “the saucepan”, the Big Dipper is visible throughout the Northern Hemisphere year-round. The middle star is a double star composed of Mizar and Alcor. It can easily be found in the night sky of the northern hemisphere. The right side of the “big wagon” points to Polaris, the North Star, with the help of stars Merak and Dubhe.

Quadrantid meteor shower

Bootes Constellation

Till Credner [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

  • Constellation : Boötes
  • Right Ascension : 15 h 28 min
  • Declination : +50°

Quadrantids fall from their radiant into the Boötes constellation between January 1st and 5th. At the best of the period, we can see on average up to 40 shooting stars per hour from January 3rd to 4th. Since the Moon will be near its last quarter and its brilliance will hide meteors that will be less brilliant, the best time to observe them will be during the darkest hours after midnight, in a dark place away from light pollution.

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula

NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team [Public domain]

  • Constellation : Orion
  • Right Ascension : 5 h 35 min 17,3 s
  • Declination : -05° 23′ 28″

The Orion Nebula is a bright nebula of stars in formation about 1340 light-years away. This region of important star formations is the closest to the Earth. To find it, locate the three stars that make up the Orion’s belt. Starting from the star on the left of Orion’s belt, head south, the direction indicated by Orion’s sword hanging from its belt. The nebula is clearly visible to the naked eye at the tip of the sword.

The center of the Milky Way

center of the milky way

Credits : ESO/Y. Beletsky [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

  • Constellation : Towards Sagittarius
  • Right Ascension : 17 h 25 min 40,04 s
  • Declination : -29° 00’28,1″

Our galaxy unfolds in the night sky like a dusty band of light from billions of stars. As it is our galaxy, we can only see part of it : its diameter is about 100,000 light-years ! Few people can admire the Milky Way because of the light pollution of the cities. On the other hand, from a dark place, the abundance of stars belonging to it appears immediately.

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