Hydra - Lacerta - Leo - Leo Minor - Lepus - Lynx - Libra - Lyra

HERCULES

A magnificent group brimming over with interesting objects including two notable globulars. It also contains the point in the sky towards which the Sun, along with the Solar system, is heading (the apex). Most old depictions of Hercules show him, for some reason, upside down; so it comes as no surprise to learn that the name of its leader, Rasalgethi , means "head of the kneeler" even though it lies at the foot of the constellation.

Groups of stars

1. The 4th-mag group of τ, φ, υ and χ. The latter has two neighbours, 2 and 4 Her, of contrasting red and blue colours.

2. 34 (6.2). Interesting sweeping to the S.

3. Range around ι (3.4) towards the head of Draco.

4. 16h 12m, +40. Curved, inverted Y of 6th- and 7th-mag stars.

5. Large graceful curve of bright stars from ε to ρ.

6. 16h 50m, +43. Beautiful collection of 6m stars.

7. Splendid group including xi and 99.

8. Beautiful group that includes 60 Her (4.9).

9. Another bright group, on the other side of Rasalgethi, that includes the small-range red variable V640.

10. Marvellous bright collection around 102 (4.3). This star used to be part of a now-redundant constellation called Ramus Pomifer , the apple branch, no doubt depicting the Apples of the Hesperides that our hero went in search of.

11. 18h 40m, +12. Pretty line of four stars (7.0, 7.3, 7.9, 8.3).

12. Another magnificent group that includes 111 (4.4).

Wide doubles

42. A 5.1m star with a fainter associate. 2S. is another wide pair.

77. A star with two fainter companions.

90. Another bright object, this time with 3 neighbours.

60. Note the wide double of 5.9 and 6.1 to the N.

8 and κ Magnitudes 5.3 and 6.1. The latter is a closer double.

83. A star with three bright companions.

17h 40m, +22. Three wide pairs together.

Close doubles

κ A difficult pair; magnitudes 5 and 6, 31" apart.

γ. Slightly wider, but less equal in brightness.

36. This easy double has another pair to the SW.

Σ2277. A tricky pair in a fine field. Mags 6 and 8, distance only 28".

Variable stars

X (6.4-7.4) A well-known red variable, with a companion of 7.4. There is another good star of 6.6m a degree east.

ST (7.0-8.7) Also in the far North of Hercules, this makes a diamond with three other stars of 8.4, 8.6 and 8.8.

SX (8.0-9.2) A fainter, yellow variable, this has an equilateral triangle of 7.2, 8.4 and 9.0 to the East. Two other variables are nearby - RU, a Mira star reaching mag.7 at maximum, and LQ, a small-amplitude red star, unsuitable for visual observing.

UW (7.5-8.6) Another yellow-orange variable, but of smaller range.

AC (7.0-9.0) This is one of the most rewarding binocular stars I know of, since it always seems to be doing something! Observe it once a week, as it is an RV Tauri star with quite a short period. A chart should be downloadable from the AAVSO.

IQ (7.3-8.2) There are several 7m comparisons close at hand for this red star, which is not too far from the preceding variable.

OP (6.0-6.6) One of a line of three (the others are 5.7 and 6.4m) which you will be able to pick out by its redness.

V566 (7.1-7.8) Again one of a line of three; the two stars to the South of it are 7.9 and 8.2m. A good star to observe,though with a fairly small range.

V449 (8.0-9.0) This underobserved star lies between two stars of 8.0 and 9.0, and a 6.6m one lies just to the E.

V640 (5.7-6.3) One of group (9). The other members are 5.2, 5.7, 5.9 and 6.2. See if you can work out which is which - a good exercise in estimating magnitudes.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.13 (NGC 6205). The famous Hercules globular cluster betrays a sizeable disc in binoculars, the bigger the better - though of course you won't be able to see its individual members, as high magnification is needed. Two 7m stars close by make recognition easy.

M.92 (NGC 6341). Though slightly dimmer and smaller than M.13, this one is still worth finding, even if it is in a more out-of-the-way area.

HYDRA

This largest of the constellations contains several interesting variable stars though little else. Of the many constellations which sit on its coils, two have since been dismissed from the lists. These are Noctua and Felis otherwise known as the Owl and the Pussycat. I think their demise is rather a shame.

Groups of stars

1. Sweep the head of Hydra; some fine areas.

2. τ2 . Interesting area to the SE.

3. Alphard. Beautiful sweeping around this fine orange star.

4. λ (3.8). Another region that rewards careful examining.

5. C (4.1). This forms a fine group with 1, 2, and other fainter stars.

Wide doubles

23. A star with two fainter attendants.

27. Note a 6m star close by. Can you see any colour here?

37. Two degrees West is a similar pair.

χ1 This makes a fine wide pair with χ2.

Close doubles

Σ1255. A test object; mags 7 and 8, distance 27".

P.260 A pretty pair of 5.9 and 7.1, both orange. Distance 67".

P.262 This is the western member of a little lozenge-shaped group of 5m and 6m stars. Separation is 150" and mags are 7.6 and 8.4.

P.265 A difficult pair in a fine area. Mags 6.9 and 8.4, 71" apart.

Variable stars

R (4.5-10) This was one of the first variables to be discovered - in 1704 by Maraldi. It is also interesting in that its period has decreased in these 300 years from 500 days then to about 400 days now. A very red star, for which predictions are provided.

U (4.8-5.8) An easy variable inside a wide trapezium of 5.5, 5.9, 5.9 and 6.3.

W (6.0-9.7) The best guides to this star are 1, 2, 3 and 4 Centauri. Come 4 North and you will find two stars of 6.1 and 6.3 with which W forms an isosceles triangle. When bright, this star is easy, but it has a close 9th-mag companion which needs a telescope for proper estimates to be made. Note a useful little line of 8.2, 8.4, 8.9 and 8.7 just S of the 6.1m star.

Y (6.9-7.9) This is one of a large Y (others are 6.3, 7.2 and 6.1). A red variable.

RV (7.5-8.7) Rather isolated, thisforms the SW corner of a diamond whose other stars are of 6.5, 6.8 and 7.2. RV itself has a neighbour of 8.7m.

RW (8-9) A reddish "symbiotic" variable, which should not be confused with an 8.4m star closely NE, though this is a good comparison star. The variations of this star are usually small, however.

TT (7.4-9.2) An eclipsing binary making an equilateral with two stars of 6.5 and 8.4m. Its period is about one week.

FF (6.8-8.5) The two stars of 5.9m (see U Hya above) sandwich a 6.9m object. Closely N. is a 6.5m star near a wide pair of 8.2 and 8.8. A red semi-regular variable.

KN (7.0-9.5) A chart is given for this Mira variable.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.48(NGC 2548). A cluster marked by a few faint stars.

LACERTA

Although a small constellation, Lacerta is supplied with many beautiful fields, as it lies in a rich region of the Milky Way.

Groups of stars

1. Large bright group of α, β, 4 and 9. A fine sight, with a wide, 7m pair between the two first stars.

2. A beautiful line of bright stars linking 9 with EW (5.0-5.3).

3. 22h 51m, +40. Brilliant group around a wide double.

4. 10 (4.9). Some magnificent groups to the S.

5. Sweep the triangle bordered by 11, 13 and 15.

Wide doubles

Bright wide triple (5.3, 6.2, 6.4) southwest of the variable AR Lac (5.9-6.7).5 (4.6). Note the tiny quadruple closely SW of this orange star.

Ho.187. A faint telescopic pair. Note a wide triple just S, and a small faint arc W

Close doubles

8. Good glasses show one, perhaps two, companions.

h1823. Easy; magnitudes 6 and 7, distance 82".

Variable stars

RX (7.5-9.0) A red star in a fine region, and with two useful stars nearby of mags. 7.7 and 8.7. The latter lies closely NE.

SX (7.7-8.7) This lies in a crowded area between two stars of 7.0 and 7.2. It also forms a south-pointing equilateral with 8.1 and 9.0m objects.

AR (5.9-6.7) The triple mentioned under "wide doubles" is useful for this eclipsing binary.

Clusters and Nebulae

NGC 7209. A fine cluster, in which a few stars before nebulosity appear using 7x50 binoculars.

NGC 7243. The same calibre of glasses will show a fine, large star-group containing between ten and fifteen stars.

LEO

A magnificent group containing several good doubles and fine fields, considering its distance from the plane of the Galaxy.

Groups of Stars

1. Note faint collections of stars between ε and μ.

2. 10h 05m, +22. A 6m star surrounded by many fainter ones.

3. o (3.8). Interesting sweeping, particularly W.

4. δ and β . Fine region between these bright stars.

5. Brilliant area which lies inside φ, υ, τ and 58.

Wide doubles

ζ . This has two fainter companions. Nearby gamma (Algieba) also has a fainter attendant in 40.

18. A 5.9m star that makes a pair with 19. When R Leonis nearby is at maximum, the three together make a good show in small glasses.

34. This has a fainter star close by.

44. A wide coloured pair of 5.9 (red) and 7.7 (yellow).

β 2N. is a wide pair of 6.0 and 7.0.

τ and 83. Each member of this wide pair is actually a binocular double.

Close doubles

α . Owners of good, large glasses might like to try Regulus, when feeling in a hopeful vein. Difficult due to the magnitude difference, but wide at 177". Mags 1 and 8.

83. A fine close pair of 30". The colours have been said to be yellow and lilac. Close by is τ, wider, though slightly fainter.

7. An easy to find, though rather faint pair. Separation is 42".

Variable stars

R (5-10) This popular variable, famous for its bright red colour, can be followed for most of its period with binoculars. Predictions are supplied for this variable.

Clusters and Nebulae

This is a fine group for the telescopic observer, as there are a great many distant galaxies here. Those which may be seen in bins are: Messier 96, 105, 65 and 66, but they will appear only as specks of light.

LEO MINOR

A small, insignificant group containing some binocular pairs, but little else. The only greek-letter stars it contains are, peculiarly, β and o. One other odd point of star nomenclature concerns the attractive little line of three bright stars in the East of the constellation. One member of the line is 46 Leonis Minoris, another is 46 Ursae Majoris. A strange coincidence! Yet another little-known fact about Leo Minor is that it is a "real" constellation in that most of its main stars are physically associated with each other, and are also relatively close to us in space.

Groups of stars

1. Fine sweeping within the area of 8(5.5), 10(4.6) and 13(6.0).

2. 10h 13m, +32. Beautiful little symmetrical group.

3. 30 (4.8). A fine field that includes a wide red pair, P.268 (both 7.3m).

Wide doubles

10. Besides having 3 faint attendants, this has a brighter star NW.

Close doubles

P.266. Difficult, as rather faint at 7.4 and 8.5. Distance is 120".

P.268. Mentioned under group (3), the separation of these is 208".P.269. Fainter and closer at 8.0 and 8.4, and 116 seconds apart.

P.270. Magnitudes 6.9 and 8.0, distance 132".

LEPUS

A beautiful little group both to the eye and binocular. Some fine groups.

Groups of stars

1. ι. Marks an area of fine sweeping, notably to the SW.

2. 06h 10m, -22. Small group of bright stars, including a red one.

Wide doubles

β and μ .Lying between these is a wide pair, the S member of which is a close double of 38" separation, both blue.

Close doubles

h3780. Owners of good glasses should try this quadruple star, the comites being 76, 90 and 127 seconds distant from the primary. Note a bright vertical line to the E.

γ An easy pair of mags 4 and 6, 93" apart.

Variable stars

R (5.9-10.5) Called Hind's Crimson Star, this Mira variable is one of the front runners in the "reddest star in the sky" stakes. But you will need to catch it near maximum for the most impressive effects, so I have supplied predictions for it.

S (6.0-7.5) A good star for small glasses. A chart is provided.

RX (5.5-7.0) Another red star, forming a wide pair with the blue ι . A comparison of 7.0m lies close by.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.79 (NGC 1904). A globular cluster appearing as a faint burred star. Use the diagram here to find it.

NGC 2017. Four or five stars can be seen in this cluster, just E. of alpha.

LIBRA

A group containing little of interest to the binocular observer, though its leader, beta, is said to be one of the few stars which appear green. Try it with binoculars and see what you think. All the brighter stars of Libra have long names beginning zuben -, an arabic word meaning "claw" and harking back to the days when Libra was not the scales, but the claws of the Scorpion.

Groups of stars

1. Rich area between 42 and κ.

2. 48 (4.7). An interesting region around this star.

Wide doubles

17 and 18. A fine sixth-magnitude pair.

α This has a 5m companion; good object for small glasses.

υ. A star with two wide companions.

Close doubles

Hh467. A difficult pair in a fine field. Mags 7 and 8, distance 47".

Variable stars

δ (4.8-6.2) An eclipsing binary, and one of those infuriating stars that are just too faint for the eye but too bright for bins! The stars 16 (4.6) and ξ2 (5.6) are useful here.

ι1 (4.3-6.0) An irregular variable. Its neighbour is of 6.0m, and a wide line of three (5.7, 6.1 and 5.7) lies to the South.

FY (7.1-7.9) This red star makes a triangle with ξ1 and 2, and older editions of Norton's show it as E-B 419, so that it was in the Red Star catalogue of two distinguished nineteenth-century observers, Espin and Birmingham. It is the northernmost of a little threesome whose other stars are 7.9 and 8.3m.

LYNX

An inconspicuous group to the eye, but possessing some fine fields in its NW corner.

Groups of stars

1. 2 (4.4) is in a brilliant field, which includes a wide pair.

2. 06h 27m, +55. Small group of 8 faint stars.

3. Bright parallelogram includes 22 Lyncis, N of which is a curved line.

4. 08h 02m, +36. Large group of various magnitudes.

5. 08h 52m, +36. A rich area resembling a large star cluster.

6. 42 (5.3) is in a fine region for sweeping.

Wide doubles

25 and 26. A fine pair of mags 5.7 and 6.4.

32 and 33. A similar wide pair.

Close doubles

OΣΣ 93. A rather hard pair easily found from 31 Lyn. Magnitudes are 6 and 8 and the distance 77". What do the colours seem to be to you?

Variable stars

Y (6.9-7.4) A red star but of rather small range for us. Two stars just to the North are of 6.6 and 6.8m.

SU (8.0-8.9) Of similar type, this lies between two stars, one of which is 7 (6.4). This makes a triangle with two further stars of 7.4 and 8.2.

SV (6.6-7.5) A red irregular, with a line of three (6.1,6.5,6.6) to the S.

LYRA

A small constellation with many objects of binocular interest - fine fields, doubles and variables. Some old star-charts also show this constellation as a vulture.

Groups of stars

1. ζ . Fine region all around this coloured double star.

2. γ. Another bright star in a rich area.

3. 18h 44m, +44. Small group of 13 faint stars.

Wide doubles

ε. This is the famous double-double (though you won't see all four with binoculars). The naked eye can double this star, but bins give a better view.

δ1 and 2. A fine, contrasting pair. The latter is a red variable.

η. A faint, wide pair lies directly E.

θ. In the same field, this has a wide double to its SE.

Close doubles

Σ2380. A difficult pair in a fine area. Distance 26", magnitudes 7 and 8.

ζ. Yellow and blue with a distance of 44", this is a fine double.

β. The famous eclipsing binary has a 7m comes 47" away.

OΣ 525. A faint pair near beta, with the same separation.

θ. A star with a faint companion 100" away.

Variable stars

R (4.0-4.7). This is really a naked-eye star, but bins will bring out its fine red colour.

XY (6.1-6.6) Another red star. Near Vega, with two comparisons of 5.8 and 6.3 just to the N. I remember one particularly clear night when, from my home in Norfolk, I observed this star with the naked eye - the limiting magnitude was nearer 7 than 6!

HK (7.0-8.0) Difficult with small glasses due to a close 8m companion, but in a fine area just south of the double-double.

Clusters and Nebulae

M.56 (NGC 6779). A globular cluster, visible as a hazy spot.

M.57 (NGC 6720). The ring nebula. With large glasses, it can be seen as a faint star. Quite a difficult object, so use the chart to find it.