Spring (September) equinox and planet season, 2020

It's planet season! Jupiter is blazing away in the evening, pretty much unmissable high in the East just after dinner, and Saturn isn't far behind it. If you're up much later you'll see Mars approaching opposition.

I had a good look the other night using a saxon 909AZ3 and Mars is about the same apparent size as Saturn without its rings. My mate Paul just got this shot of Neptune, which is difficult, but a beautiful blue.

There are plenty of bright clusters like 47 Tuc, and dimmer objects like the Helix Nebula. or the Sculptor Galaxy. Far into the North, the Ring Nebula will challenge you.

Here’s the  list of springtime objects. It spans 12 to 20 hours in RA, and is biased to the southern objects.

Because we're locked down in Melbourne, it won't be easy for you to see the dimmer objects.

The list is ordered by the time targets pass the meridian – that is, their highest point of the night. The Omega Nebula is past the zenith before 7pm, so go for that one first. Also, depending where you live, some of these targets are “circumpolar”, meaning they don’t set at all.

To this list you can start to add some summer objects. The Pleiades is up in the mornings now, and if you're keen, that makes a beautiful sight in a small telescope.

  • Diffuse nebula: M 17 - Omega Nebula (06:45 PM)
  • Globular cluster: M 22 - Sagittarius Cluster (07:00 PM)
  • Open cluster: M 11 - Wild Duck Cluster (07:15 PM)
  • Planetary Nebula: M 57 - Ring Nebula (07:15 PM)
  • Globular cluster: NGC 6723 - Chandelier Cluster (07:20 PM)
  • Open cluster: Cr 399 - Brocchi's Cluster (07:50 PM)
  • Double star: HIP 95947 - Albireo (07:58 PM)
  • Galaxy: NGC 6822 - Barnard's Galaxy (08:10 PM)
  • Globular cluster: M 15 - Pegasus Cluster (09:55 PM)
  • Planetary nebula: NGC 7293 - Helix Nebula (10:55 PM)
  • Globular cluster: NGC 104 - 47 Tucanae (12:50 AM)
  • Galaxy: M 31 - Andromeda Galaxy (01:10 AM)
  • Galaxy: NGC 253 - Sculptor Galaxy (01:15 AM)
  • Galaxy: NGC 292 - Small Magellanic Cloud (01:20 AM)
  • Double star: Rho Eridani - Cat's Eyes (02:05 AM)