Bucket List for Stargazers and Amateur Astronomers
Most amateur astronomers have a list of night sky objects that are special that they would like to see in their lifetime. I know of a few enthusiasts of astronomy who would travel across continents to witness a solar eclipse or the northern lights.
My bucket list has 32 items in it. So far, I have completed 23 in my list. I hope to complete 25 soon. Find out how many you have done.
The Sun and the Moon
1. Solar Eclipse: The sun is our closest star, and it is a magnificent sight when it is eclipsed by the moon in the daytime. I have seen a total eclipse once and partial eclipse several times.
2. Lunar Eclipse: The full moon eclipsed by Earth's shadow is an event that occurs more frequently. I have seen this many times. It's special when the fully eclipsed moon displays a red hue instead of becoming pitch dark. A blood moon is a special sight, too.
3. Lunar Craters: The craters on the moon's surface look like indentations on a metallic ball even from my modest telescope. These craters are formed when asteroids and comets impact the moon.
4. Venus Transits: There have been two Venus transit events in the twenty-first century. This is when the planet Venus passes in front of the sun. It appears as a black dot moving across the sun's disk. I missed the first one, but I watched the second one through a telescope with solar filters that was organized by a local astronomy group.
5. Venus Conjunction With the Moon: I was lucky enough to spot Venus emerging from behind the crescent moon in the year 2005. I immediately alerted a few of my family members and friends so they too could watch the spectacle.
Solar System Planets
6. Crescent Venus: When the orbit of Venus brings it closer to Earth, the full disk of Venus is not illuminated. Though Venus appears like a bright star to the naked eye, you can see the crescent-shaped Venus through a telescope.
7. Saturn's Rings: My modest telescope won't reveal the rings, but I have seen them with a bigger telescope during a local star party.
8. Five Visible Planets: I have seen all five visible planets with just my eyes. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the five visible planets.
9. Neptune and Uranus: Both Neptune and Uranus can be seen with a telescope, but only if you know where to look. This is a pending one in my list, and it may stay pending for a long time as this does not excite me.
10. Jupiter's Moons: I have spotted the four bright moons of Jupiter several times through my telescope. Jupiter and its moons are aligned in a straight line when viewed from Earth.
11. Seeing Planet Venus in the Daytime: It is possible to spot Venus even when the sun is up. I have done this an hour and a half after sunrise or just before sunset. A few people claim to have seen it around midday.
12. Earth's Shadow: Earth casts its shadow on its atmosphere and space as a dark blue band. Since this region in space would be opposite to the sun, we can see it only during sunset near the eastern horizon. It is an easy target for anyone to spot.
Other Solar System Phenomena
13. Binocular Comet: I saw one in the year 2015. It was a fuzzy ball and not a regular comet with a tail.
14. Naked Eye Comet: I have yet to see one. Comet Wirtanen did not get bright enough to reach naked eye visibility in 2018. So the wait continues.
15. Asteroid: I have not attempted to spot an asteroid so far. If anyone is interested in spotting an asteroid, Vesta could be an option. You'll need a powerful telescope, and you have to know where to look.
16. Meteors: I have seen many shooting stars and even a fireball in 2012.
17. Northern Lights: I have yet to spot the aurora borealis or the northern lights. I should plan a trip to the ice-cold polar regions. I have not mentioned southern sights separately.
18. Zodiacal Lights: This is a faint cone of light running across the night sky from very dark locations a while after sunset. This is the reflection of interplanetary dust concentrated more in the zodiacal plane. I have yet to find such dark locations to spot the same.
19. Gegenschein: A faint brightening of the night sky in the zodiacal region opposite the position of the sun is known as the Gegenschein. This one is pending and hopefully can be completed when I get to spot the zodiacal light.
Prominent Stars and Constellations
20. Polaris: Polaris, or the North Star, is a bright star that can be seen with the naked eye. It gets tricky to see from my city as this star stays very low on the northern horizon, which is where light pollution is heavy. But since it is a bright star, I have seen this many times with just my eyes. North Star was a navigational tool for sailors in ancient times.
21. Alpha Centauri: I am mentioning this one separately, as this is the closest star to our solar system. It is located lower down in southern skies and as seen from my location. It is a challenge for people living further north to spot this.
22. Sirius: This is the easiest star to locate near the Orion constellation as it is the brightest star in the night sky. The planets Venus, Jupiter, and Mars, however, are brighter than this.
23. Constellations: I can spot the most famous constellations and star groups like Orion, Canis Major, Scorpius, Big Dipper, Pegasus, and Andromeda from light-polluted skies. It is ironic that from truly dark skies; it takes a lot of time to identify these constellations in the ocean of stars.
Fuzzy Objects in Our Galaxy
24. Milky Way Galaxy: I was lucky enough to spot the spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy way back in 2014 from Nagaland, India. It was a splendid sight.
25. Nebulae: I have seen a few nebulae during star parties; Orion is the most dramatic. The Orion nebula is the only one we can see with the naked eye from light-polluted skies.
26. Star Clusters: I have seen many around the Sagittarius constellation; the easiest hunting ground for star clusters with my modest telescope.
27. Pleiades: I am mentioning this separately and not under star clusters because this is a great naked-eye star cluster. It is also called "seven sisters" or "Karthikai Deepam" in Tamil, since it is shaped like a lamp.
28. Nova Through a Telescope: I could see this when a nova happened right inside the Sagittarius Teapot a few years back. It was shining bright at 4th magnitude. It did not have naked-eye visibility in our light polluted city, and I needed my telescope to spot the Nova.
29. Naked Eye Supernova: This is a pending one in my list as no one alive could have seen one. Many are waiting for Betelgeuse, the red supergiant star to explode.
Beyond the Milky Way Galaxy
30. Andromeda Galaxy: It is a great binocular galaxy as viewed from my house. I have never viewed this beauty with the naked eye.
31. Small Magellanic Clouds: This is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. I plan a visit to the Southern Hemisphere, so I can see this.
32. Large Magellanic Clouds: This is another satellite galaxy of our Milky Way and is pending for the same reason.