Binocular double stars in Draco: my article in the August 2017 Sky & Telescope

July 6, 2017

This one came about by accident. In February, 2016, I went down to Borrego Springs, California, to give a talk at the Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists annual meeting. After the conference, I went up to camp for the night at Culp Valley Campground in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Anza-Borrego is a dark place to start with, and Culp Valley is up around 3500 feet and even farther from any towns or buildings, so it is stupid dark up there.

I got almost all the way around the sky with my binos that night, both in the early evening and then again before dawn. I was struck by how many nice binocular double stars there were in Draco. At first I was thinking I might use 3 or 4 of the best as the basis for a Binocular Highlight column, but pretty soon I was up to a dozen and I realized that I had enough ammo for an observing feature. I went back out this spring with a whole range of binoculars, up to and including mounted 15x70s, to re-observe and take notes. There are 20 doubles listed in the article, and although a few of them will require big binos to split cleanly, most can be split with 10×50 or even 7×35 binoculars, and a couple can probably be split with naked eyes if your vision is good.

If you want even more, or if you want to get a taste before you spring for a copy of the magazine, I also wrote an online feature with several more doubles that didn’t make the cut for the printed article. You can find that online feature here.

I’ve written for Sky & Tel on the Milky Way (twice), galaxies, and look-back time, and I’ve included individual double stars in Bino Highlight columns, but this is my first feature on double stars. What worked, what didn’t, what would you like to see in the future? The comment thread is open – I’ll look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Hi Matt….nice feature in S&T. Fits right in with my plans. I’ve nearly completed my AL Messier program, looking to do Double Stars and Binocular Messiers next. Just got a Meade astrometric eyepiece to measure separation and angle on doubles. I’m nearing completion on my mammoth parallelogram mount which will hold my Orion 25×100’s on one end, and my Zhumell 20×80’s on the other. All this while my 7×35 Nikon Aculons hanging on my neck so I can navigate the two monster binos! I enjoy your monthly column in S&T, and especially the feature articles. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hello Matt,
    Many thanks for Eyes of the Dragon.
    Over a few night I got to your #20. A wonderful, fantastic collection.
    I use a 20 year old 15X45 Image Stabilized Canon, and a 4″ refractor helped out a bit. Especially the curving neck of Draco had me confused thus far, but it’s a lot clearer now, after your engaging and fun project.
    I also really enjoyed the viewing and learning of your winter binocular tour of 2015 and then the Virgo tour in 2016. You have a good way of going to out of the way places.
    All the best,

  3. Many thanks to you both for the kind words – you made my day!

  4. Matt, thanks very much for the article on Draco doubles. I have observed almost all of them using mounted 10×50’s, but in the course of scanning the sky around Draco, I ran across a double star to which I wanted to call your attention. Between the kappa Draconis area and Polaris, I ran across, and was able to split with the 10×50’s, the double star SAO 2101/2102 in Camelopardalis. The Eagle Creek website lists the star as STF 1694. The pair are of magnitudes 5.0 and 5.5, and are 21.6 arcseconds apart, so it’s challenging even with mounted binos. They remind me almost exactly of Alya in Serpens (Cauda), a beautiful sight! The view through mounted 20×80’s is much easier of course.
    Clear skies,
    Eric David, Fredericksburg, VA

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