When I give a talk, I like to make it either easy or fun for beginners so that they get hooked and continue to observe. For naked-eye observers, I think the 10/11 star tutorials do a pretty good job. For those with binoculars, Dobs or even GOTO scopes, it would be nice to have a list of, well, stunning objects to observe.
One example is Mike Simonsen's favorite double: T Dra, which is a carbon star next to a blue star. However, I am sure that everyone has their favorite, for a lot of reasons. I'd like to collect a few such examples. Any suggestions? Beauty comes first, closely followed by ease of identity - I'm not interested in your adopted WZ Sge variable that will go into outburst Any Year Now.
Alot of my observing targets this month have been in Cygnus. I've started using Albireo for telescope alignment simply because of the beautiful color contrast between the two component stars. I sometimes linger, observing this system before dialing in my first target for the night. I also sometimes use the system to discuss blackbody radiation and the color of stars with students.
U Cygni is another favorite. On occasion, a neighbor or passerby will stop to peer through the eyepiece. The deep red color often surprises folks who are not themselves amateur astronomers. Sometimes I even hear 'what causes that?' With a grin, I can then talk a little about carbon stars.
Gerry Dick wrote some 30 years ago in the S&T about his favourite variables. CY Lyr was described by him as a variable lying next to a necklace asterism with a beautiful gem on it. And I agree: this is a beautiful asterism!
I'd like to nominate this Mira as occupying a lovely setting. Best with a lowish power; giving, say, a 1° field, and reasonable aperture.
Time and again,; thumbing through my rough notes, I see, “Splendid field” - “fine field”; and this; whether or not the variable is bright.
Best impression with a binocular viewer, as always, from the aesthetic point of view.
DY Per gets my vote. Residing in the open cluster Trumpler 2 and just 2 degrees from the Sword Handle double cluster in Perseus. Wonderful field! DY Per is also my favourite star!
Below Orion's belt, just above M42. The star itself, although of a comfortable brightness in a 10x50, is a bit tough in terms of how long it takes until you notice a change. The view however is nothing but spectacular.
The coordinates of KX Ori as given by VSX and VSP are correct:
05 35 04.78 -04 43 54.6 J2000
You can also check at the GCVS website:
I like CH Cyg quite a bit; it's in an interesting field, there are lots of good comparison stars. Another favorite is EG And. With M31 in the same field of my 7x50s it's always a joy to observe. Of course, R CrB is in a fine field, although most of the time nothing is "happening".
First among the variables in my program that require use of a telescope to observe them throughout their cycle is SS Cyg. I think it worthy of promotion as a target, not only because it is accessible even with a modest telescope but also because one never knows a-priori what one is going to find.
I always love to point new variable observers to HL CMa, especially if I have a high enough magnification to put Sirius out of the field of view. When they ask how to find it, I direct them to move the scope towards Sirius while looking through the main.
HL CMa was the first dwarf nova I saw go off. After that I was hooked!
T Cas makes a beautiful orange-blue pair with its companion.
S Per is a short star hop from the Double Cluster in Perseus.
R Sct is very close to my favorite open cluster M11.
For what it's worth I have taken the list of binocular variables from Patrick Moore's old book and added positions and magnitude ranges to it. Of the stars on the list, the only ones I can attest to having observed are Z UMa, R CrB and Rho Cas. I enjoy observing all three with 7x50 binoculars.
If you want colour ('color' to you guys!) you can't beat S Cep. I believe this is 'officially' the reddest star in the sky as judged by CI. Some years ago when I was making charts for unobserved brightish red stars that nobody else appeared to be watching, I came across another very red star PQ Cep not far away.
Another deep red / blue combo is WZ Cas with its 8m companion. I also agree with U Cyg, where you have not just the variable, but the 'omicron' stars close by with those amazing blue-greens.
As for pretty fields - it has to be CY Lyr for me too. But what about our friends in the Southern hemisphere? Look at all that stuff in CrB, Sco, Lup...
AY Aur is an LPV near M37, a rich open cluster in Auriga that's visible in a finder over 30mm aperture. Easy to find the cluster, and then maneuver over to the variable in a rich field.
Even with binoculars, WZ Cas (deep red) makes a stunning double with its blue companion. Also, how about the RCB star FH Sct which is in (I think) M26? Another binocular red--blue double is RS Cyg. Going a bit more obscure, the YSO BM And is in a pretty little 'cluster' too, even if you don't see BM itself.