This Father’s Day, share your love of astronomy with a family summer stargazing night. From galaxies to nebulae, this week’s bonus observing challenge features our picks for the best deep-sky objects currently visible. It’s the perfect Father’s Day activity to do with kids.
Eagle Nebula (M16)
Like a parent protecting a pack of extremely energetic children, the Eagle Nebula (M16) nurtures a growing cluster of newborn stars. This star-forming region is best known for its often-photographed “Pillars of Creation,” which is visible in an eVscope.
Fireworks Galaxy (NGC 6946)
The so-called Fireworks Galaxy, NGC 6946, is a nearby neighbor of our Milky Way first discovered by astronomer William Herschel. In addition to changing our understanding of the cosmos, the legendary observer also raised a future astronomer, John Herschel. While neither father nor son knew it, this galaxy’s spiral face points toward us, giving Earthly viewers a clear view of its regular supernovae.
Omega Nebula (M17)
The Omega Nebula (M17) in Sagittarius is among our Milky Way galaxy’s youngest and biggest star-forming regions. It was named by the first person to accurately sketch it, John Herschel, who also raised a third generation of Herschel astronomers. This nebula’s reddish color is hot hydrogen gas from newly born stars.
Trifid Nebula (M20)
The Trifid Nebula (M20) is a cloud of star-forming gas and dust some 9,000 light-years away. And like children vying for attention, studies show M20’s young stars actually compete for material as they grow. First discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1764, this observing target is best seen in summer with a small telescope.
Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)
Few deep-sky sights are more iconic — or breathtaking — than the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) in the constellation Canes Venatici. Well-defined spiral arms make M51 a so-called “grand design galaxy,” a picture-perfect archetype for how spiral galaxies should appear. William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, first noted M51’s spiral structure. Like Herschel, he also produced rather prodigious progeny, with one son becoming an amateur astronomer and another an engineer.
We encourage you to share your observations and join the conversation through our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages using the hashtag #UnistellarChallenge!
If you’d like to send us your observations by email, send them to email@example.com.
Clear skies! 🔭