By O'Meara S.J.
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Additional resources for Deep-Sky Companions: The Messier Objects
Challenge yourself to spend the time to really study these objects, which are some of the most splendid deep-sky wonders visible from our unique perspective in space, and to strive to see even more detail than I have shown. Once you have located a Messier object, let’s say a galaxy, spend about a half hour just enjoying it. 29 2 Next, try to sketch as much detail as you can without referring to the book. ) Then sit back for a moment, take a sip of hot tea, relax your eyes, examine the photograph and drawing, and compare your sketch with the photograph.
Most astronomy books state, as a general rule, that the faintest star visible to the unaided eye is 6th magnitude; the faintest star visible with 7 × 50 binoculars is 9th magnitude, and 12th magnitude is the faintest you will see with a 4-inch telescope. However, these numbers are very conservative and should only be used when making generalities about average skies. For some reason, these magnitude limits have become chiseled in stone and have misled beginners for decades! This is a very important point.
28 Perhaps a bunch of rods work together at that spot to enhance my vision. In any case, I’ve developed an awareness of how my own mind and eyes react to detecting faint objects. Try to discover that magic spot in your own eye or eyes (if there really is one), or just find the most comfortable position for looking. Your magic spot may be totally different from mine. The late Carolyn Hurless, a prolific observer of variable stars, shared the following observing secret with me when I was about 16 years old.