Maximum hours of darkness reign over December, giving the keen deep sky observer plenty of time to hunt down those faint fuzzies of winter. Besides the wonderful open star clusters of Auriga, and a sprinkling of nice galaxies scattered across the late autumn and winter constellations, there is a Christmas hamper of nebulae to tempt the amateur astronomer, be they visual observer or CCD imager. In this month's observing Focus Martin Mobberley gets things started as he highlights the range of stunning nebulae within Orionís molecular cloud, from the famous Horsehead Nebula to M42, and from the Running Man to M78. Neil English then follows up with three nebulae (although technically one is a star cluster embedded in a nebula) that follow a seasonal theme, before Owen Brazell rounds things off for the serious deep sky observer with his guide to some of the planetary nebulae in the Abell catalogue.
Elsewhere in this issue, Nik Szymanek shows you how to capture star trails with just a camera on a tripod to produce some of the simplest yet most beautiful astronomical images; Steve Wainwright and Ian Davies describe an alternative to long exposure imaging and how new software technology is making video astronomy even easier, and Keith Cooper reports on NASAís Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) which is set to launch this month on a mission to survey asteroids and galaxies near and far.
In our regular slots this month Carole Stott's Starting from Scratch concludes with the greatest unanswered questions of the Universe; Jeremy Perez sharpens his pencils to sketch the Flame Nebula; Martin Mobberley describes the finer points of telescope 'sweet spots', and the Lumenera Infinity 3-1 and retro Skylight f/15 are reviewed. There's also Christmas bounty galore in Astro Loot, and a bumper-sized observing guide to the night sky.
Plus details of AstroFest 2010, including speaker and exhibition details, and an order form to advance purchase your tickets.