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10 great winter binocular sights

All you need besides a clear, dark sky to see some fantastic seasonal sky treats are your binoculars.
Open cluster M46
Open cluster M46 in Puppis shines at magnitude 6.1. Through binoculars, this rich cluster appears as a glow with an irregular outline.
Thomas V. Davis

Head to Canis Major for our next treasure. Search half a binocular field south of magnitude 2.5 Aludra (Eta [η] Canis Majoris) for a right triangle of three bright stars accompanied by many fainter points. That’s Collinder 140. Arizona deep-sky observer Steve Coe nicknamed this "the Tuft" for its location at the tip of the Dog's tail.

From Collinder 140, drop a binocular field southwest, just across the border into Puppis, to find open cluster Collinder 135. Its brightest member, the magnitude 2.7 orange supergiant Pi (π) Puppis, stands out among the surrounding blue-white cluster stars. Collinder 135 also includes a striking double star just north of Pi and a solitary 5th-magnitude sun to its west. Together, they give the cluster an arrowhead shape.

Next, head east of Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) to the star Muliphain (Gamma [γ] Canis Majoris). Then continue eastward past a triangle of faint stars to a second slender triangle. That second trio frames open clusters M46 and M47. The western one, magnitude 4.4 M47, is a hazy blotch peppered with several pinpoints. The cluster itself is pretty, and even more so when combined with its starry surroundings.

M46 lies just east of M47. Unlike its neighboring cluster, which has several stars within the grasp of most binoculars, magnitude 6.1 M46 is a rich congregation of faint suns. Through most binoculars, you'll only see a hazy glow peppered with a few difficult-to-resolve specks.

Open cluster M47
M47 in Puppis is the sky’s 14th-brightest open cluster. It shines at magnitude 4.4 and measures ½° across.
Bernhard Hubl

Once you find M46 and M47, slide southward a little more than a field’s width to M93. Look for it just above a crooked rectangle of four stars, including Xi (ξ) Puppis. My 10x50 binoculars reveal about a half-dozen cluster stars mixed throughout a dim, roughly triangular glow.

We have just enough room for a bonus object. Gamma Leporis is one of my favorite winter binary stars, and it is sure to become one of yours, too. Binoculars easily resolve the system's magnitude 3.6 yellowish primary sun paired with a magnitude 6.2 orange secondary star. The two stars have a separation of 96".

The coldest nights are often also the clearest, so bundle up, head outside, and enjoy the winter binocular sky. You'll see for yourself why I always say that two eyes are better than one.

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