Irish Astronomy
Astronomy Targets for Amateurs

Astronomy Targets for Amateurs

Astronomy is a fascinating field of study that has captured the imaginations of people for centuries. From ancient civilizations who used the stars to navigate and keep track of time, to modern scientists who are exploring the furthest reaches of the universe, astronomy has always been an important part of human history. If you’re interested in exploring the universe beyond our planet, there are plenty of astronomy targets to discover, whether you’re an amateur or a professional.

One of the most popular astronomy targets is the moon. The closest celestial object to Earth, the moon has been observed and studied for centuries. With its distinctive craters and mountains, the moon is a great target for both amateur and professional astronomers. Whether you’re using a small telescope or a powerful observatory, there’s always something new to discover on the moon.

Another popular astronomy target is our neighbouring planet, Mars. With its distinctive red colour and prominent polar ice caps, Mars has long fascinated scientists and astronomers. In recent years, several missions to Mars have provided us with detailed images and data about the planet’s surface and atmosphere, making it an exciting target for both amateurs and professionals.

Beyond our solar system, there are countless other astronomy targets to explore. From the stunning rings of Saturn to the majestic beauty of distant galaxies, the universe is full of wonder and excitement. Professional astronomers use powerful telescopes and other instruments to study these objects in detail, but even amateurs with basic equipment can observe many of these targets and appreciate their beauty.

One important aspect of astronomy is dark sky preservation. As more and more people move to urban areas, light pollution is becoming a major issue for astronomers. Light pollution can make it difficult to see many astronomy targets, and can even affect the behaviour of wildlife and our own health. That’s why many astronomy enthusiasts are working to promote dark sky preservation and reduce light pollution.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, astronomy is a rewarding and exciting hobby that can connect you with the wonders of the universe. With so many astronomy targets to explore, there’s always something new to discover and appreciate. So grab your telescope, head outside, and start exploring today!

Deep sky objects

Deep sky objects are celestial objects that are outside of our solar system and are located far away from Earth. These objects are fascinating to study and observe because they offer a glimpse into the vastness and complexity of the universe. There are several types of deep sky objects, including:


Galaxies are collections of stars, gas, and dust that are held together by gravity. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including spiral, elliptical, and irregular. The Milky Way, which is our home galaxy, is a spiral galaxy.


Nebulae are clouds of gas and dust in space. They are typically illuminated by nearby stars and can take on a variety of shapes, including emission, reflection, and dark nebulae. The Orion Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky.

Star clusters

Star clusters are groups of stars that are held together by gravity. They come in two types: open and globular clusters. Open clusters are loosely held together and can contain a few hundred to a few thousand stars. Globular clusters are densely packed with hundreds of thousands of stars and are typically found in the halos of galaxies.


Supernovae are explosive events that occur when a star runs out of fuel and collapses. They release a tremendous amount of energy and can briefly outshine entire galaxies. Studying supernovae can provide important insights into the life cycle of stars.


Quasars are incredibly bright objects that emit massive amounts of energy. They are thought to be powered by supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies. Quasars can provide important insights into the early universe and the formation of galaxies.

Overall, deep sky objects offer a fascinating glimpse into the complexity and vastness of the universe. Studying and observing these objects can provide important insights into the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars, and the universe as a whole. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or a beginner, exploring deep sky objects can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

Comets, meteors and asteroids

Comets, meteors, and asteroids are three types of objects that can be found in our solar system. While they may seem similar at first glance, they each have unique characteristics and properties that set them apart.


Comets are small, icy bodies that originate from the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud regions of our solar system. They are composed of frozen gases such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane, as well as dust and rock. As comets approach the Sun, the heat causes the ices to sublimate, creating a glowing coma (the gas and dust surrounding the comet) and a tail that can be visible from Earth.

Comets are often named after their discoverers and can have highly elliptical orbits that can take them far from the Sun. The famous Halley’s Comet, for example, has an orbit that takes it out beyond Pluto and back to the inner solar system every 76 years.


Meteors, also known as shooting stars, are small pieces of debris from comets or asteroids that enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up due to friction with the air. When this happens, the glowing trail of light that we see in the sky is called a meteor. Most meteors are very small, about the size of a grain of sand, and burn up completely before they hit the ground.

However, if a larger meteoroid does survive its descent through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it is then called a meteorite. Meteorites can provide important insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system.


Asteroids are small, rocky or metallic bodies that orbit the Sun, primarily in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They range in size from less than a kilometre to several hundred kilometres across. Some asteroids have highly irregular shapes, while others are more spherical.

Asteroids can be composed of a variety of materials, including rock, metal, and carbon compounds. Some asteroids have been identified as potential targets for future space exploration and resource extraction, due to their composition and proximity to Earth.

In conclusion, comets, meteors, and asteroids are all important objects in our solar system, each with its own unique characteristics and properties. Studying these objects can provide important insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system and the universe as a whole.

The Sun

The sun is the star at the centre of our solar system and is by far the most important celestial object in our daily lives. It provides heat and light to Earth, which are essential for life as we know it. The sun is a massive, glowing ball of hot gas that is approximately 109 times larger than Earth and contains 99.8% of the total mass of our solar system.

The sun is composed of several layers, each with its own unique properties and characteristics. The innermost layer is the core, where nuclear fusion reactions take place that produce the sun’s energy. Surrounding the core is the radiative zone, where energy is transported outward in the form of radiation. Above the radiative zone is the convective zone, where energy is transported by the movement of hot gas in large convection cells.

The outermost layer of the sun is the atmosphere, which consists of three layers: the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the corona. The photosphere is the visible surface of the sun and appears as a bright, yellowish disc when viewed from Earth. The chromosphere is a thin layer of hot gas above the photosphere, and the corona is the outermost layer, consisting of extremely hot, ionised gas that extends far out into space.

The sun is not a static object, and it exhibits a variety of phenomena that can be observed from Earth. One of the most well-known of these is sunspots, which are dark regions on the surface of the sun that are caused by strong magnetic fields. Sunspots can be several times larger than Earth and can last for several weeks or even months.

Another important phenomenon associated with the sun is solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These are powerful explosions that release vast amounts of energy and material into space. When a CME is directed towards Earth, it can cause auroras and geomagnetic storms, which can disrupt satellite communications and power grids.

Overall, the sun is an incredibly important celestial object that plays a critical role in the functioning of our solar system and our daily lives. Studying the sun can provide important insights into the physics of stars and the formation and evolution of our solar system.

Let’s not forget the dwarf planets!

Absolutely! Dwarf planets are an important part of our solar system, and they have recently gained a lot of attention due to the discovery of several new objects in our outer solar system.

Dwarf planets are similar to regular planets in that they orbit the sun, but they have not cleared their orbits of other debris and are therefore not classified as full-fledged planets. Currently, there are five recognized dwarf planets in our solar system: Pluto, Eris, Haumea, Makemake, and Ceres.

Pluto is perhaps the most well-known dwarf planet, and it was once considered the ninth planet in our solar system until it was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. Pluto is a small, icy world that is located in the Kuiper Belt, a region of our solar system beyond Neptune that is home to many small, icy objects.

Eris is another dwarf planet that was discovered in 2005 and is slightly larger than Pluto. It is located in the same region of the solar system as Pluto and is thought to be composed of similar materials.

Haumea, Makemake, and Ceres are three other recognised dwarf planets in our solar system. Haumea is an elongated object located in the Kuiper Belt, Makemake is a small, icy world located in the outer solar system, and Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Studying dwarf planets can provide important insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system. For example, studying the properties and composition of these objects can help us understand how the outer solar system was formed and how objects in our solar system have interacted with each other over time.

In conclusion, dwarf planets are an important part of our solar system, and studying these objects can provide important insights into the history and evolution of our solar system. While they may not be as well-known as the large