Deep Sky Observing guides

This is a collection of observing guides I have developed for the serious deep sky observer.  A bit of a history of the structure of these guides - Back in the late 70's, I observed with AstroCards and liked the idea of the "one-stop shop" observing tool.  Then in the early 2000's, I started compiling my own "one-stop" observing pages for my observing program.  I started with some of the lists I was working on; Hickson Compact Galaxy Groups and Abell Planetary Nebulae.  Once I was done observing them, they became my very first guides for sale complete with eyepiece renditions and observing notes.    I had planned to release observing guides for sale for almost all of the ones below, but found that I would take way too much time to observe every object, write notes, sketch each, etc...then make a publish quality publication.  I said "forget it" and offer them for FREE to observers.   So I hope that you find these guide enjoyable to use at the field.  If you feel inclined to share your thoughts, observing notes, or any comments, just email me.  My email is at he bottom of this page.

The main idea of the "one-stop shop" idea is to have everything an observer needs to locate and effectively find the object by manual star hopping. A naked eye chart with a Telrad overlay centered on the object, coupled with a finder chart and a DSS image all on one page.  I still use this method today while observing, hence I do not have DSC's in my 22" reflector.

Note:  I do have DSC's in my 30" reflector as it is just too big (long) to manually star hop.   I did try DSCs in my 22", but I found that it actually takes longer for me to plug in the coordinates in the DSC, then push to, etc.  I guess after 40+ years of manual star hopping helped me. 


Check back from time to time, as I tend to make additions.  They are captured in the revision history located at the back of each observing guide.



Most of these guides are available through my regular publisher at a nominal cost.  They are provided for convenience as I realize that some of you don't have a laser printer, let alone a duplex printer.  Or just don't want to bother printing the whole book and then taking it to a Kinkos to have it coil bound.


I'm actually pleasantly surprised at my publisher's final price as it is actually cheaper than printing the whole thing at Kinkos, color stock covers and then coil binding it.  In fact, one observer noted that when he sent the 2013 OOTW to Kinko's and had them print them double sided in black and white, then bound with a clear cover on front and black vinyl on the back.  It cost him about $29, while it is $12.95 plus shipping from my publisher.  


Just another way of making them available for a modest cost to all.  Hope that you feel that this option is valuable for you.


Best part is I'll still keep my free PDF version here!


To access them - click here for a listing of available guides or the link net to each book below.


Again these print books are COIL-BOUND for ease of use at the telescope, especially those with large reflectors with ladders.  They are field guides, not armchair books.  :)



A Very Challenging Observing Project


The Palomar Compact Galaxy Catalogue - A select sampling of 60 of 459 compact groups.   This list was created by Dr. Angela Iovino of Italy, using a similar selection criteria as Hickson, Shakhbazian, and Rose in their respective projects.  The criteria is a bit tighter and uses an automated algorithm scanning POSS plates > 40 degrees from the galactic equator.  

This list is the ultimate compact galaxy list.  All of them are less than a arc minute.  Think about it, 1 arc minute is 60 arc seconds, meaning that many entire Palomar Compact Galaxy group would be covered by Jupiter!    (70+ pages)   Print Version

The Herschel Objects

Observing the Herschel 400 Objects (Part I) - The first group of 400 Herschel objects generated by the Ancient City Astronomy Club in 1980.  This is an excellent list for observer's who completed the Messier list.   A 6" telescope is sufficient to see all objects on this list.  (400+ pages)  Print Version



Observing the Herschel 400 Objects (Part II) - The second group of 400 Herschel objects generated in 1997.  This is an excellent second part of the overall list of 2,500 Herschel Objects.   A 10" scope is needed to see all objects on this list, but an 8" can see most of them.   (400+ pages)  Print Version



Observing the Herschel Part III Objects - The third group of Herschel objects generated by Tom Hoffelder consisting of 300 galaxies.  This is an excellent step for those who completed the Part I and II list.   A 10 or 12" scope is needed to see all objects on this list, but an 8" can see most of them.   (300+ pages)  Print Version

For large telescopes (16" or larger)

The Vorontsov-Velyaminov Catalogue of Interacting Galaxies  (Part I) - Dr. Boris Vorontsov-Velyaminov of Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow University, created this list of interacting galaxies in 1959.  A majority of the systems were found on the POSS plates from the Palomar 48-inch Schmidt astrograph.   The original Part I list contained 355 systems, many of which are listed by Dr. Halton Arp AFTER Dr. V-V did his list.  Note:  This observing guide will contain only the non-Arp VV objects as the Arp are covered in my publication, “Observing the Arp Peculiar Galaxies”.
Many of these objects require a fairly large telescope (16"+)  Print Version

The Vorontsov-Velyaminov Catalogue of Interacting Galaxies  (Part II) – This interactive catalogue consists of 497 objects created in 1976 as Boris continued his work on interactive galaxies.  The list starts with VV 356 and ending with VV852.  

Many of these objects require a fairly large telescope (16"+)

 Print Version - Note:  The number of pages exceeds the limit for coil binding as it would not fit even the largest coil.  This print version is available in hard back only.

Variable Galaxies – A selection of 60+ variable galaxies, most are observable with a 20-22" class telescope.  This class of objects includes BL Lacertae, Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and Optically Violent Variable quasars (OVV).    Print Version





The Local Group –Galaxies within our celestial backyard generally within 3 or so million light years.  I've used SEDS and NED as sources to determine which members are within our Local Group or not.   Some of the Local Group members are close enough where you can see some their globular clusters, H-II, OB regions and open clusters.  They are clearly marked and offers a great challenge for those with large telescopes.  (76 pages)    Print Version



Flat Galaxies - A selection of 170+ Flat Galaxies from the Revised Flat Galaxy Catalogue.  Many are dim and requires a large telescope.  I recommend a 16" or larger scope to tackle the majority of objects in this list.  

Note:  This is the first major release.  I am most likely to make revisions including adding new flat galaxies.  The Revision History page will list the revisions.   (193 pages)     Print Version



Ring Galaxies - A selection of ring galaxies generated by a good friend, Jimi Lowrey.  He observes about 15 times a month with his 48” f/4 reflector.  Some of them are pretty tough and will require a very large telescope, such as Jimi’s 48" reflector.      Print Version



Selected Shakhbazian Galaxy Groups – Very challenging compact galaxy groups, much more challenging than the Hickson Compact Galaxy Groups.  Dr. Shakhbazian el al published a list of 377 groups.  60+ brightest groups in this guide. 

A 20” or larger telescope is strongly recommended.  (76 pages)     Print Version




The Rose Catalogue of Compact Galaxies - Dr. James A. Rose wrote a paper discussing a small selection of 33 northern and 5 southern very compact galaxy groups for large telescopes.  This list is considered to be a bit more challenging than the Hickson Galaxy Groups. 

Recommend 18" or larger scope as most are very small and dim.  All objects in this list are visible in the spring months.  (87 pages)    Print Version



Abell Galaxy Clusters – In 1958, Dr. George Abell compiled a list using POSS1 plates consisting of 2712 galaxy clusters (limited to -27°  and above).  Later in 1989, Dr. Abell and Harold Corwin added an additional 1361 clusters.  I've selected 80+ Abell Galaxy Clusters for this observing guide for intermediate and advanced observers with large telescope. 

16” or larger scope is recommended.  (432 pages)     Print Version



For smaller telescopes (8” and up)

Selected Small Galaxy Groups – Small Galaxy Groups inspired by the Astronomical League Galaxy Clusters Observing Club with some additional selections.  60+ groups.   8” or larger scope.   (151 pages)     Print Version






Galaxy Trios and Triple Systems – Galaxy Trios inspired by Miles Paul’s list and by the Astronomical League Galaxy Groups Observing Club.  But there are much more than the two original lists, some very challenging for large telescopes such as my 30" reflector.   200 trios and triple systems.   8” or larger scope. (257 pages)
Extra: This file also contains a selection of the easiest gravitational lensed quasars, such as the Double Quasar in Ursa Major and Einstein’s cross in Pegasus. 

Updated (August 2017):  Added the newly discovered quad gravitationally lensed quasar in Andromeda.    Print Version

Globular Clusters - All globular clusters above -50° declination.  This list includes all Messier, NGC and Palomars and Terzans.  There are a few “impossible” globulars, such as the two 2MASS globulars, FSR 1735, in this list as well.  90+ globulars.   

Most are observable with an 8” scope.  (128 pages)   Print Version



Planetary Nebulae and Supernovae Remnants- Planetary nebulae, supernovae remnants and protoplanetaries that are observable above about -50° declination.   About 350+ objects are included.  Many stellar planetaries are left out.  (322 pages)    Print Version




Deep Sky Forum Observing Guides

Object of the week 2012 - An observing book/log comprising all of the 2012 'Object of the Week' as posted at Deep Sky Forum.  Members chose and discussed a different object every week.  You'll find a great selection objects varying in type and difficulty.  Many objects may require at least an 18" and dark skies.    Print Version




Object of the week 2013 - An observing book and log comprising all of the 2013 'Object of the Week' plus selected objects from the Off the Beaten Path forum as posted at Deep Sky Forum.  Members chose and discussed a different object every week.  You'll find a great selection objects varying in type and difficulty.      Print Version




Texas Star Party Advanced Observing Guides

Galaxy Illusions (2013) - A handy observing list for Larry Mitchell's and Jim Chandler's Texas Star Party Advanced Observing List.  Observe BOTH galaxies in at least 20 pairs to qualify for the pin.  Print Version






Seeing Red (2014) - Observing Guide for Larry Mitchell's Texas Star Party Advanced Observing List.  Observe at least 20 objects to qualify for the pin.  Print Version






Inverting on a computer as demonstrated on my Observing Tips page

In FoxIt, click on Tools\Preferences...  Then click on Documents on the left side.  Under Document Color Options, place a check box on Replace Document Colors.  Click on Custom Color radio button, change the page background to black and document text to white (or whatever you want).  Click on OK.

If you want to view in full screen with no borders...then click on Full Screen in the same left hand menu under Tools\Preferences...  remove all check marks except the last one.  Click on OK.

On my small laptop, I rotate the image clockwise (as I hold my laptop with the screen on the left hand side, you can rotate the other way around if you prefer the screen on the right hand side.)  Then press F11 for full screen.

Note: Some of these documents are best printed on both sides of the paper to maximize the usefulness on the field as the two-page spreads are built to be used together.  It is best to coil bind the pages.  Any business printing business can do that for you.

For the documents with a two page spread per object, if you want each object to appear on the same sheet (front and back), add a blank page or delete one of the blank pages at the beginning of the book.


Printing the Guides (two ways)

1. If you have access to a duplex printer, then you’re set.  

2.  If you are using a standard laserprinter, then...

  • Print odd pages in reverse order
  • Take the just printed stack and place it in the paper tray facing up and upside down (top of page closest to you).

If you have good observations, feedback, or any other comments on these guides.  Please email

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