This is a plan for a star party with some constraints:

  • Bright lighting (expected to be used at community events, at places such as school with property lights on)
  • Young observers (Scout or school audiences)
  • October(automn objects)
  • Early evening (twilight ends between 7:00 and 7:30). I expect to use this on evenings when the Moon does not rise till later. On nights when the Moon is up you could add that; it’s a good target for kids. Because the other targets in this plan are bright, they should work acceptably in moonlight.

It features:

  • Bright objects, easy to find and mostly also visible to the kids’ naked eyes
  • Examples of the major categories of sky objects
  • Fun, large, colorful objects that kids tend to appreciate more than small faint fuzzies

Plan by type of object


Different planets are visible in the evening from year to year. You will need to look up what is visible when you use this plan. The bright, easy-to-see planets that might be in the sky in the evening are:

  • Mercury (but it is always difficult to find low on the horizon)
  • Venus
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn

Everybody has heard of Mars, but it usually appears as only a pale orange dot. It is exciting when you know what it is, or if you can see surface features at high magnification, but Mars is usually not a successful choice for an easy target with youth.


Only occasionally does a bright comet appear in the sky.  If you hear of an opportunity to show one, take advantage of it.


The best nebulas rise late in the fall.

  • Pleiades Nebula rises mid-evening
  • Orion Nebula rises late


  • Andromeda Galaxy

Open clusters

  • The Big Dipper in Ursa Major, though it is so spread out it does not impress kids as a cluster. All but two of its stars are in the Ursa Major Moving Group. Technically, it has spread out more than groups we typically call clusters.
    • Double Cluster
    • Pleiades
    • Hyades
    • M35
    • Beehive

Globular clusters

I haven’t come up with any that are bright and easy for kids to appreciate. M79 is easy to find, but all globulars look like small faint fuzzies to kids.

Planetary Nebulas

The best planetaries are easier to find in other parts of the year.

  • Little Dumbell Nebula M27, but low and not an easy target

Colored Stars

  • Mu Cephei (Herschel’s Garnet Star)
  • Deneb (blue giant)

Double Stars

  • Albireo, beta Cygni in Cygnus. Many consider this the most beautiful double star in the sky.
  • Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major
  • ι (iota) Cassiopeiae in Cassiopea
  • Polaris (you will need high magnification to split the double)
  • Cor Caroli carbon star in Canes Venatici
    • lambda Orionis
    • sigma Orionis, 5 bodies, A and B are red and blue
    • alpha Leporis
    • gamma Andromedae, triple


  • Ursa Major, with asterism Big Dipper
  • Ursa Minor, with asterism Little Dipper
  • 6 constallations in the myth of Andromeda:
  • Cygnus
  • Cassiopea
    • Andromeda
    • Pegasus
    • Perseus
    • Cetus
  • Zodiacal constellations:
    • Sagittarius (setting at sunset)
    • Capricornus
    • Aquarius
    • Pisces
    • Aries
    • Taurus (after midnight)

Plan in target order



Blue giant


Colored double



near Lambda Aquarius


mu Cephei

Herschel’s Garnet Star


story of Andromeda and Perseus

Andromeda Galaxy

gamma Andromedae

triple star

Milky Way

trace across the sky

our own galaxy


belongs to story of Andromeda and Perseus

iota Cassiopeiae

double star


belongs to story of Andromeda and Perseus

Double Cluster

Little Dumbbell Nebula


belongs to story of Andromeda and Perseus


Wolf 28 ( van Maanen’s star)

Easiest white dwarf to find. PSC 00 49.2 +05.4 2 degrees S of delta Pisce


belongs to story of Andromeda and Perseus



cluster. Iroquois story of the creation of the Pleiades.



Ursa Major

story of creation of constellation, Rotating Man and Woman

Mizar and Alcor

Most likely an optical double, though uncertainty in the measurements is an interesting science lesson. Mizar is a 4-star system.

Ursa Minor


double star (now known to be a triple, the third member only recently seen for the first time)

Story of a Star Life

Merope Nebula in Pleades
Birthplace of stars.
A main sequence star.
Example of planet formation. Rings are common.
Many stars are found in pairs.
Stars often cluster close together.
Andromeda Galaxy
An even larger grouping of stars. Galaxies are important structures in the larger universe.
Deneb, Polaris
A blue giant. A large star may become this instead of a main sequence star.
Antares, Aldebaran
A red giant. A main sequence star in old age may become this.
Ring Nebula
A planetary nebula. An older star sheds its outer layer to make a nebula. This is the brightest fall candidate, but may be too dim to see.
DM Lyrae, Wolf 28 ( van Maanen’s star), ZZ Ceti
A white dwarf is the core remnant after a giant loses mass. We probably won’t be able to distinguish the dwarf
Polaris B
A white dwarf is the core remnant after a giant loses mass. We probably won’t be able to distinguish the white dwarf
Crab Nebula M1
A supernova remnant. A supernova is another possible end of star life. This is not easy to see. A supernova might leave behind a white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole.

About the author