The Queen’s Owl Takes Flight Through the Autumn Night

The north-eastern horizon at 9 p.m. Click on an image to enlarge.

October 22nd, 2015

With the constellation of Cassiopeia the Queen rising high over the northern-eastern horizon, now’s a good time to seek out one of the best star clusters of the season.

A definite favorite, this cluster has a very distinctive shape that has given rise to a number of imaginative names over the years. Many see the stars forming the shape of an owl, while others see a kite. More recently, some have come to call it the E.T. Cluster.

Although the cluster can be seen with binoculars it doesn’t truly shine until you turn your telescope toward it. You won’t need a lot of magnification either – it can be seen with 26x and 35x provides a nice view, but somewhere between 50x and 90x is probably best. Once you get to about 100x, you’ll have difficulty fitting the entire cluster into the field of view.

The first time you see it, you’re sure to be delighted as your eyes take in the sight and your imagination takes over. With the double star Phi Cassiopeiae marking the eyes, it’s easy to see the cluster as either an owl with powerful wings or an alien with long, outstretched arms staring back at you.

The two stars of Phi Cassiopeiae are both white, with one being about 1 ½ times brighter than the other. It’s a sparsely scattered cluster with the densest portion being around the chest area of the alien.

If the thought of an alien spooks you, look again. No owl? How about a goose or a swan in flight with Phi marking the tail?


Adapted from a forthcoming book for beginners with small telescopes. Sky simulations created using the Mobile Observatory app for Android devices. Photograph taken using Slooh.

2015 An Astronomical Year (Kindle Edition) 2016 An Astronomical Year Paperback Cover 2016 The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac 2015-2019 Kindle Cover - Deep Sky Observer's Guide

2015: An Astronomical Year

2016: An Astronomical Year 2016: The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) The Deep Sky Observer’s Guide

(Kindle & Paperback)

(Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback)


Amazon – US

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Details of all available books across the world can be found here or by visiting the author’s page on Amazon. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at astronomywriter “at”


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