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As the warm nights of summer give way to crisp autumnal evenings, there's plenty of autumn deep sky objects to see in the night skies. We take a look at some of the top sights to see during autumn.

Autumn Planets

Mercury will be visible in the evening sky from mid-February to early March, and in the morning from late March to early May. Mercury returns to the evening sky between early June and mid-July, then back to the morning sky between early August through to mid-August. Look for Mercury again in the evening sky between late September and early November. Mercury will be brightest in the evening sky between February and March.

Venus is always brilliant, shining with a steady, silvery light. Mornings in the eastern sky at dawn from early January through to mid-June. Then, because of its close proximity to the sun, it will be invisible all through the summer into the early fall. Venus will return to the evening, in the western sky at dusk from Early October through till the end of December.

Mars, The Red Planet is visible in the night sky from January to mid-July, then shifts to the morning sky from mid Oct to the end of December.

Jupiter is a splendid object visible in the southern sky as soon as darkness falls and does not set until early morning. Using higher magnifications you will see the yellowish flattened disc and as the four Galilean satellites. You should be able to follow the movement of these moons from night-to-night. It will be visible in the mornings from January to May, evenings from May to November, and mornings again from mid-December to the end of December.

Saturn shines like a yellowish-white "star" of moderate brightness. The famous rings are only visible in a telescope. Saturn is visible in the mornings from late January to early July, then in the evenings from July to December.

Autumn Deep Sky Objects

In the west after sunset is the constellation of Hercules, which is home to magnificent autumn deep sky objects, the globular cluster M13 which was the first-star cluster I observed and imaged. The M13 globular cluster is visible in binoculars from a site with dark skies and is a superb target for a small telescope.

In the nearby constellations of Lyra and Vulpecula, you'll also find two beautiful planetary nebulae. M57, the Ring Nebula appears as a grey ring through a 6 to 8-inch telescope, while the dumbbell nebula, M27, looks like a fuzzy patch of faint light.

M22 is the third brightest star cluster visible in the northern hemisphere and is known to contain at least 75,000 stars. Its low altitude means that it is often overlooked, but at magnitude +5.1, it is a naked eye object and a fine target for small telescopes. It is fairly easy to see in the low southern skies in the constellation of Sagittarius, approximately half way from Nunki to µ Sgr. M28 lies nearby, and although lower again

Location of Globular Cluster M22

Location of Globular Cluster M22

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and Triangulum Galaxy (M33) are the real showpieces of the autumnal skies. Both are visible to the naked eye from dark sky sights, and both fine binocular targets. A small telescope will show M31's satellite galaxies M32 and M110, as well as the galaxies dust lanes.

You can find M33 by following the line from the star Mirach to Upsilon Andromedae, and extending it about the same distance in a straight line.

Location of M31 Andromeda Galaxy

Location of M31 Andromeda Galaxy

M33 can be found just less than two-thirds of the way between the stars Hamal in Aries, and Mirach in Andromeda. Through a small telescope, it will appear as a faint, oval shaped patch of light, while larger telescopes should be able to pick out more detail under dark skies.

Finding M33, the Triangulum Galaxy

Finding M33, the Triangulum Galaxy

Finally, there are some striking double stars on show in autumn. The blue and gold pair of Albireo, the head of Cygnus, is perhaps the most impressive, and the equally impressive "Double Double" Epsilon Lyrae should not be overlooked.

Autumn Meteor Showers

Autumn is a very quiet time for meteor showers, the only one of note is the Orionids which last throughout October and into early November. You can expect a rate of 20-25 meteors per hour. The shower starts around the 2nd October and lasts until around the 7th November.

Autumn Constellations

Autumn is an ideal time to observe the following constellations.

Autumn Deep Space Objects

  • C1 - Cepheus (00h 44.4m +85° 20m)
  • C2 Bow-Tie Nebula - Cepheus (00h 13.0m +72° 32m)
  • C4 Reflection Nebula - Cepheus (21h 01.8m +68° 12m)
  • C9 Cave Nebula - Cepheus (22h 56.8m +62° 37m)
  • C12 Fireworks Galaxy - Cepheus (20h 34.8m +60° 09m)
  • C16 - Lacerta (22h 15.3m +49° 53m)
  • C37 - Vulpecula (20h 12.0m +26° 29m)
  • C42 Very distant globular - Delphinus (21h 01.5m +16° 11m)
  • C47 - Delphinus (20h 34.2m +07° 24m)
  • C51 - Cetus (01h 04.8m +02° 07m)
  • C55 Saturn Nebula - Aquarius (21h 04.2m -11° 22m)
  • C56 - Cetus (00h 47.0m -11° 53m)
  • C57 Barnards Galaxy - Sagittarius (19h 44.9m -14° 48m)
  • C62 - Cetus (00h 47.1m -20° 46m)
  • C63 Helix Nebula - Aquarius (22h 29.6m -20° 48m)
  • M11 The Wild Duck Cluster - Scutum (18h 51.1m -06° 16m)
  • M13 The Hercules Cluster - Hercules (16h 41.7m 36° 28m)
  • M14 - Ophiuchus (17h 37.6m -03° 15m)
  • M15 - Pegasus (21h 30.0m 12° 10m)
  • M16 - Serpens (18h 18.8m -13° 47m)
  • M17 Omega Nebula - Sagittarius (18h 20.8m -16° 11m)
  • M18 - Sagittarius (18h 19.9m -17° 08m)
  • M22 - Sagittarius (18h 36.4m -29° 54m)
  • M24 The Sagittarius Star Cloud - Sagittarius (18h 16.9m -18° 29m)
  • M25 - Sagittarius (18h 31.6m -19° 15m)
  • M26 - Scutum (18h 45.2m -09° 24m)
  • M27 The Dumbbell Nebula - Vulpecula (19h 59.6m 22° 43m)
  • M28 - Sagittarius (18h 24.5m -24° 52m)
  • M30 - Capricornus (21h 40.4m -23° 11m)
  • M54 - Sagittarius (18h 55.1m -30° 29m)
  • M55 - Sagittarius (19h 40.0m -30° 58m)
  • M56 - Lyra (19h 16.6m 30° 11m)
  • M57 The Ring Nebula - Lyra (18h 53.6m 33° 02m)
  • M69 - Sagittarius (18h 34.4m -32° 21m)
  • M70 - Sagittarius (18h 43.2m -32° 18m)
  • M71 - Sagitta (19h 53.8m 18° 47m)
  • M72 - Aquarius (20h 53.5m -12° 32m)
  • M73 - Aquarius (20h 58.9m -12° 38m)
  • M75 - Sagittarius (20h 06.1m -21° 55m)
  • M77 Cetus A - Cetus (02h 42.7m -00° 01m)
  • M92 - Hercules (17h 17.1m 43° 08m)

2 thoughts on “What to See in the Autumn Night Sky
  • 6th September 2019 at 10:38 am

    why not m15?

    Reply
    • Tim Trott
      13th September 2019 at 9:20 am

      I had wrongly classified it as a winter target. You are correct, October is a better time to observe the M15 Globular Cluster. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Reply

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