Puppis Constellation — Containing the brightest star visible on earth, the constellation of Canis Major is one of the few constellations in the heavens which resembles what it is supposed to be: a large dog.
Its neighbor, Puppis, on the other hand, boasts no bright stars, and is difficult at best for even seasoned observers to identify.
Stellar beacons notwithstanding, both of these constellations are rich in open clusters, as they lie along the winter Milky Way.
Several interesting planetary nebulae and double stars are also found in this region.
Later in the winter, galaxies will be overwhelming the skies, so if you want to find objects a bit closer and brighter, it’s time to come out of the warmth indoors and do some cold weather astronomy!
M-46 – This is a bright open cluster almost a half of a degree in diameter, containing about 100 moderately concentrated stars. As a special treat, the planetary nebula NGC 2438 lies seemingly imbedded in its northeastern edge. The planetary is about 40″ in diameter, grayish, and is distinctly ring-shaped. This is a great deep sky double!
M-47 – About the same size as M-46, this is another fine telescopic sight. This open cluster contains about 50 relatively bright stars moderately concentrated to the center.
M-93 – Another fine open cluster. It is about 20′ in diameter with a distinct triangular or wedge shape. Composed of about 50 stars, it is fairly well concentrated, with a moderate range in magnitudes of the stars.
NGC 2440 – This planetary nebula appears as an out of focus star, about 20″ in diameter, with a bright center fading to the edges. No central star was seen in this blue-green nebula.