The top 5 deep-space objects to look for in the winter night sky

We are now at the midpoint of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and on a clear and cold night the sky is especially transparent, and the faintest stars abound in great profusion. Careful skywatchers can pick out dim borderline stars and nebulas that cannot be seen at other seasons when the air is less clear. 

This week, without the light of a bright moon to interfere, and using a small telescope or just a simple pair of binoculars, you can check out what I consider to be winter’s “top five” noteworthy deep-sky objects; four are beautiful star clusters and the fifth is a cloud of gas recognized as a stellar incubator and perhaps the finest deep-sky object in the entire sky.