I will be going to the desert this month and it's my understanding that the night sky will be very dark there. I've got some practice locating the planets but I'd really like to get a look at a nebula or galaxy. I understand from Is the Celestron astromaster 130 EQ Model able to see nebulas and galaxies? that nebulas and galaxies are visible with modest magnification. I'd really appreciate some tips on locating stuff that's cool to look at other than planets and the moon. I've got an AstroMaster 114 (114mm, f/8.77) with a couple of eyepieces and a Barlow lens.
I've searched a bit and these targets seem like a good short list.
- Orion Nebula, M42
- Andromeda Galaxy, M31
- Hercules Cluster, M13
I understand that my telescope has an equatorial mount and I do take care to orient it northwards and adjust it to match my latitude, but I've never truly bothered to center it on the north star. I find locating the north star a bit daunting. All the instructions I've encountered say to locate the big dipper (aka the plow) and follow the line of two if its stars. Finding constellations is not my strong suit -- especially with the haze and obstructions here in Los Angeles. I can usually find Orion pretty well, though.
I have an app on my iphone called Planets which I find quite helpful for locating the planets, but I'm not sure if it will operate properly out there where there's no telephone service. It also doesn't provide any tools to identify or locate deep space objects. It's just for planets.
My telescope does have some "setting circles" (little dials demarcated in degrees or hours, see photo) but my understanding of ascension and declination is sketchy at best and I also understand that these are not especially accurate. I'm wondering if they might have some use to get me in the ball park of the objects I'm seeking -- maybe help me at least find the constellation from which I can locate the deep space objects of interest.
So to summarize, I'm hoping for tips on locating the north star and establishing a proper baseline position for my telescope and I'm also hoping for good, basic instructions for locating some interesting, non-planetary objects to view in my scope.