Deep sky observing report, Sutherland - 2009 Jan 23 to 29

posted: 3151 days ago, on Sunday, 2009 Feb 08 at 10:53
tags: astronomy, deep sky, observing report.

Observer: Auke Slotegraaf

A week in Sutherland around New Moon, testing out a new observing site.

All observations were made with "Bertha", an Orion 12-inch f/4.8 Dobsonian and the following eyepieces: 32mm, 25mm, 10mm & 6.3mm Plossls, 2x Barlow, 32mm Erfle. Magnifications range from 47x to 500x, fields of view from 76' to 5.4'.

The telescope was set up on Ed's front lawn in the "Theatre", shown in the adjacent photo as it looked on the morning of January 26 after the night's observation.

The Theatre is just over two metres tall and effectively cuts out any stray light. Even a place like Sutherland from time to time has the odd light that is troublesome. Using the Theatre, anywhere can be transformed into a limiting-magnitude observing site in 15 minutes. Not recommended for use in high winds.

eta Carinae (peculiar star)

It goes without saying (he says) that eta Carinae is regularly visited. The general region is, of course, awesome.

The orange star eta Car itself has two lobes like little bits of skin sloughed off it.

The western lobe is distinctly brighter and larger than the eastern one; both shine with a soft orange light.

The larger lobe is not regularly shaped (as previously seen) but has a secondary bulge, a little bump on the northern edge, nearest eta.

The accompanying sketch over-states this somewhat. Inside this lobe is an elongated dark marking so that it appears almost annular. (D: 20090123/24. E: B+10mm)

Veteran observer Brian Skiff called this "just about the oddest thing I've ever seen among deep-sky objects" so there you have it.

NGC 2325, "The Shrinking Galaxy"

You wouldn't normally go looking for galaxies in Canis Major, but this is one of the brightest on offer.

Dangling like a dingleberry [thanks to Chris for correcting my inappropriate use of "booger"] off the rear end of the Dog, this little galaxy lies a short hop from Adara (epsilon CMa) and is not difficult to see. At 60x it is readily seen as a considerably elongated glow with an 9th mag star close (7 arcmin) to the north-west.

The galaxy itself appears to have some bright details within. So far, it lives up to expectations: an elongated smudge. Doubling up the magnification with the Barlow shows a second fainter star ("2" in the sketch), lying between the galaxy and the 9th mag star so the galaxy shrinks (but still has some detail) and it now has a very faint companion close by (0.4 arcmin) to the north-west.

Fiddling with the eyepiece, and trying the 10mm plus Barlow which the galaxy can handle now shows yet another small star ("3"), flanking the shrinking galaxy but this time to its south-east (0.6 arcmin away). While observing it, I kept thinking: "Saturn nebula!"

Anyway, essentially then, the galaxy is an approximately round glow (or perhaps slightly elongated north-south) between two 11th magnitude stars; its much more impressive with lower power (32mm and 25mm) because it is then a much elongated glow (although a fake one). Delightful. (D: 20090123/24. Chart: U361)

It was first spotted by John Herschel in 1837 during his stay in Cape Town; he recorded it as "pB, pL, lE, gbM, resolvable, 2' long" (h 3071).

SIMBAD: B=13, D=3.47'x2.24', PA=6, [MT=E...], aka ESO 427-28, LEDA 20047, SGC 070042-2837.5
HCNGC (1.03): V=11, B=12, D=2.3'x1.5'.

NGC 3882

A 1.5-degree buffet is laid out near the Crux-Centaurus border, where you can enjoy a planetary nebula, a galaxy, and an open cluster.

NGC 3882 is a very curious galaxy, well-marked by two bright (9th mag) stars 3' north and 2.5' east. It is moderately faint and much elongated glow (NW-SE, 2:1), and doesn't grow brighter to the middle (or towards anywhere else for that matter).

The galaxy's south to western edge is marked off by a curve of four stars (the brightest of which is 12th mag and lies on the southern extent). Another small star appears embedded just inside its south-eastern edge.

From the sketch, the galaxy measures 1.8' x 0.8'.

I'd thus settle on calling it a moderately faint, elongated, even glow, 1.8' x 0.8' NW-SE, with several small stars involved. (D: 20090123/24.)

It was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1834 from Cape Town, who logged it once, and described it as "very faint, slightly elongated, has two stars in it" (h 3358).

Because of its position within the Milky Way, it was initially thought to be a nebula. The RNGC classifies it as a "diffuse nebula". Sky Atlas 2000.0 lists it as a "reflection nebula"; the 9th mag star to the east is presumed to be the source of the reflected light.

SIMBAD: B=13.0, D=2.45'x1.45', PA=126, MT=[Sc:], aka ESO 170-11, LEDA 36697, SGC 114339-5606.8, UKS 1143-56.1.
HCNGC (1.03): V=12.5, B=13.3, D=3.0'x1.8'.

NGC 2792

"Bertha" is set up on Ed's front lawn inside the "Theatre", a wooden frame, 2 metres tall with a footprint of about 3 x 2.5 metres. Black drapes hang all the way around, so inside its as dark as its going to get. In a breeze, the wooden supports creak slightly as slack in the drapes take up wind, bulging then flapping lethargically. No other sounds intrude, and although I've never been on an old sailing ship, this is pretty much what I expect it will sound like.

High overhead floats Argo Navis, and one corner of its sails is marked by Alsuhail (lambda Velorum). About a degree away drifts NGC 2792. Even at low power it is visible, as a bloated star.

Bumping up the magnification to 150x shows a round or slightly elongated (SE-NW) glow, 22 arcseconds across, with a smooth, featureless, disk. To the south-east is a double star (TYC 7686-01226-1 & TYC 7686-01150-1). (D: 20090125/26)

I've looked for this nebula several times with 11x80 binoculars, but have never been able to see it. A 6-inch f/8 Newtonian shows it plainly as an 18-arcsecond clear, round, disk.

This planetary was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel while at the Cape. He called it a remarkable object, and even showed it to his friend Thomas Maclear, who was Astronomer Royal at the time. Just in case it would turn out to really be a new planet, it would be good to have a credible witness to vouch for the discovery. Herschel carefully sketched the surrounding star field, noting "It occurs in a field with about 40 stars." He went on: "But now the night is good and it bears magnifying. With 320 power the disc is dilated into a dim hazy round nebula; yet there is a peculiarity in its appearance which completely separates it from all nebulae of the same size. A very remarkable object."

From the Union Observatory, RTA Innes observed it on 16 March 1917, noting: "An 11th mag. planetary nebula about 20'' in diameter. Is [north-west of] a pair of 10.5 mag stars. No stars within 3'."

A few years later, at Helwan Observatory in Egypt, it was described as "Planetary; pB, S, vlE 165deg approx; appears as a nearly uniform disc without a central star" on a photographic plate taken with the 30-inch Reynolds reflector. (Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 22, 1921).

It was included in a photographic survey of bright southern planetary nebulae conducted with the newly operational 74-inch Radcliffe telescope in Pretoria by David Evans and Andrew Thackeray. They wrote: "We find a typical, almost symmetrical, ring nebula, with central star. The ring is slightly brighter to the south. Diameter 13 arcseconds."

Experienced observer Brian Skiff, using a 6-inch refractor, commented: "central star maybe also?" Something I'll be on the lookout for next time, given Evans & Thackeray's remarks vs. John Herschel's.

SIMBAD: V=11.8, aka ESO 314-6, PN G265.7+04.1, Hen 2-20, PN Sa 2-36, Wray 16-36, (AM 0910-421, HD 79384).
HCNGC (1.03): V=11.6, B=13.5, D=0.22'x0.22'.

Cl VDBH 56

Two degrees west of Alsuhail lies the open cluster van den Bergh-Hagen 56 (vdB-Ha 56 on the Uranometria charts).

A low power view shows one bright star (V=7.4) and seven slightly fainter members, loosely arranged in what looks like merely an asterism. The four brightest stars form an obvious L shape (1.5' x 0.5') pointing north, with a similar curve of four 11-12th mag stars to the outside of this. At higher powers only three or four additional members are made out. This one deserves a sketch. (D: 20090125/26)

I had a similar impression of the cluster in a 10-inch f/5 (30x, 120x), although through a 6-inch f/8 (52x, 104x) it looked more like a sloppy Z-shaped arrangement of six stars.

Brian Skiff notes that the bright central star is double (3 arcsec separation, V~10.5).

Archinal&Hynes, DAML02: D=20', MT=[43mn], aka C 0855-430, COCD 213.

SAC 7.64: D=12', 35 stars.

Cl Pismis 10

About midway between Alsuhail and vdB-Ha 56 the Uranometria chart 397 shows a cluster, Pismis 10. Try as I might, at all powers, I find nothing here. (D: 20090125/26. U397)

Pismis, in her 1959 discovery article, noted: "10th magnitude; 1.5'x3.5', 5 (neb) stars."

DAML02: a/d=09h 2.6m, -4338', D=2', aka ESO 260-15, OCL 757, C 0900-434.

SAC 7.64: D=2.5'.

Cl Melotte 101

At the tip of the Diamond Cross, surrounding the star theta Carinae, is the well-known open cluster IC 2602, the Southern Pleiades. In its shadow lies Melotte 101.

At 94x, a 24' field of view nicely frames this large, scattered cluster. There are two-dozen brighter stars, with some 60 faint stars scattered in-between them, with no particular areas of greater concentration. This beautiful, delicate grouping is visible in the 9x50 finder. (D: 20090125/26.)

In his 1915 discovery article, Melotte notes: "A distinct cluster of somewhat faint stars. Not in NGC or Bailey. Falls south of loose cluster around theta Car. Resembles NGC 4349." The cluster was first noticed on plates from the Franklin-Adams star camera, possibly taken from South Africa.

Brian Skiff gives the cluster diameter as 20 arcmin, counting 75 stars. He notes that the "outliers [are] truncated on NE side (outline flattened there)."

SIMBAD, Archinal&Hynes: B=8.5, V=8.0, D=15', MT=[31m], aka Cl VDBH 101, Cl Collinder 227.

SAC 7.64: D=14', MT=[23m], 50 stars, brightest star = 9.7, notes: "40 faint stars"

PK 288-5.1

On the extreme outskirts of the Southern Pleiades lies this planetary nebula.

It is little more than a very faint, round, glow, seeming to extend towards the south-east away from a small star.

Not difficult to see with attention.

(D: 20090125/26)

SIMBAD: B=10.7, R=9.6, aka ESO 92-23, Hen 2-51, PN G288.8-05.2, PN Sa 2-63, Wray 16-74.

SAC 7.64: D=12"x7".

RCW 58

Two degrees east-southeast of the outskirts of the Southern Pleiades lies the promise of RCW 58, as shown on Millennium Star Atlas chart 1004.

I have no notes on this object, and have never seen it. And I didn't see it again this evening. (D: 20090125/26)

The DSS image (POSS-2, red plate) shows a very dim annular ellipse, about 1' thick, measuring 9' x 5.5' in PA 10. In the centre is a V=7.7 star (HD 96548). Two stars, 9.9 and 11.5 mag, near the bright primary should help to pin down the ghostly ring's extent.

The MSA chart 1004 shows the nebula as lying due south of HD 96548, instead of surrounding it.

SAC 7.64: D=7'x5', Notes: "Ring shaped; Wolf-Rayet incomplete shell; 8th mag central star."

IC 2621

About midway between the Southern Pleiades and RCW 58 lies another invisible object, the planetary nebula IC 2621. At least, I couldn't see it. (D: 20090125/26. MSA 1004)

The nebula lies between two stars that are 2' apart (V=11.0 & 11.6), so it should be easy to pick out.

This is one of a handful of objects discovered in Cape Town. Lunt discovered six others objects (five galaxies and another planetary) with the 24-inch refractor at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, around the turn of the 20th century. He described it as "A stellar nebula found visually with the 24-inch o.g. prism. Mag 10-11. Immediately N.p. CPD -64 1588".

It was independently discovered by Fleming at Harvard Observatory.

On chart MSA 1004 it is shown as being quite large; yet it is classified as being stellar (by Vorontsov-Velyaminov; also Lunt's remarks above). Further, E. J. Hartung writes: "This is a good example of a 'stellar' planetary nebula, only to be distinguished from the starry field by the single prism image, though with care a minute bluish disk can be made out."

Brian Skiff comments that a UHC filter only modestly enhances it, "but booms out w/[OIII] @ 50x." He estimates it is 11th magnitude, and notes that it is in the middle of three similar-brightness stars in an arc SE-NW.

SIMBAD: aka ESO 93-4, Hen 2-59, PN G291.6-04.8, PN Sa 2-70, Wray 16-81 (HD 95541).

SAC 7.64: D=5"x3.9".

IC 2714, "The Rip-Torn cluster"

After miserably failing at the previous two objects, I headed into the stream of the Milky Way for the open cluster IC 2714.

No subtlety here this is a distinct but dim cluster of about 50 faint stars, nicely framed in an 8-arcminute field of view (Barlow+10mm). The western part of the cluster has an obvious gap or rather, the cluster is clearly divided into two. The western, smaller, portion is distinctly triangular. A jagged (serrated, actually) line of brighter stars dot the eastern edge of this gap, so that it looks like the cluster has been ripped apart! This one deserves to be sketched. (D: 20090125/26)

This cluster was first noted by Solon Bailey of Harvard College Observatory; he remarked: "cluster, fairly condensed."

Soon afterwards, H.E. Worssell of the Union Observatory, Johannesburg, wrote: "In Dreyer's Second Index Catalogue of Nebulae there will be found the following reference: No. 2714 .... Cl., pC. Near this position there are in reality two star clusters, whose positions have been roughly determined from a photograph obtained with the Franklin-Adams star camera ... The North preceding of these two clusters agrees in position with Bailey's cluster (No. 2714) but the description does not agree. This cluster is an open large cluster (12' in diameter) of stars of approximately the same magnitude and is of the x Carinae type. It lies immediately North of CPD -62 1953. The South following cluster is a compact irregular cluster, about 2' in diameter, of the kappa Crucis type, and is a more striking object than its North preceding neighbour. It is due following CPD -62 1959. The 1900 positions of these clusters are 11h 13m 32s, -62 7.3' and 11h 15m 28s, -62 57.6' " The first position refers to IC 2714 (= Cl Melotte 104); the second is for Cl Melotte 105 (ESO 93 SC 7).

Robert Trumpler, in the Lick Observatory Bulletins, gives the diameter as 11' and the class as 2 2 r.

I have always found this cluster easy in 11x80 binoculars, a large puff of light in a murky field of dark nebulae. Not everyone agrees. An observer, writing in the ASV Journal (Vol 24 No 3 June 1971) noted it was "rather difficult in a 2-inch at 64x."

Brian Skiff notes that the cluster stars are 11th mag and fainter; and total around 180. He called it a "large, poorly concentrated cluster, but still well separated from the field."

SIMBAD, Archinal&Hynes: V=8.2, D=14', MT=[22r], aka Cl Collinder 245, Cl VDBH 116, Cl Melotte 104, Cl Raab 89.

SAC 7.64: D=12', MT=[23m], 100 stars, brightest V=10.0. Notes: "150 faint stars."

NGC 1165

Galaxies are afoot in Fornax. Just two degrees east of 4th magnitude beta Fornacis lies NGC 1165.

Using 120x (21' fov) the galaxy appears much elongated (1:3, 1.4' x 0.5', oriented WNW), not faint, and has a bright nucleus. It lies almost at the focus of three 11th magnitude stars in a curved row about 10 arcmin to its north & northwest. A small field star lies 3' to its north, and another lies very close (20") west of the nucleus but is not involved. (D: 20090127/28. U 354)

This galaxy was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel. He observed it twice; calling it "vF, pmE, vlbM, 60 arcseconds long, 30 arcseconds broad." and "vF, lE, 18 arcseconds." (h 2503)

It is listed in Arp & Madore's Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations as AM 0256-321.

SIMBAD: D=2.5'x0.7', PA=115, MT=[Sa], aka ESO 417-8, LEDA 11270.

HCNGC (1.03): V=12.8, B=13.7, D=3.8'x1.3', PA=115.

NGC 1049

This globular cluster one of the faintest in the NGC lies within the Fornax dwarf galaxy.

At 120x it is a small, very faint, haze with a very bright, starlike, nucleus. (D: 20090127/28. U354)

It was discovered in 1825 by John Herschel from Cape Town. He recorded it as "pretty bright; small; round; like a star 12th magnitude a very little rubbed at the edges, a curious little object and easily mistaken for a star, which, however, it certainly is not." (h 2492)

NGC 1049 is the brightest of at least four globular clusters that belong to the Fornax Dwarf Galaxy.

SIMBAD: B=13.6, aka Fornax Dwarf Cluster 3, ESO 356-3, MCG-06-06-017.

HCNGC (1.03): D=0.8'x0.8', V=12.6.

SAC 7.64: D=1.2'x1.2'.

Fornax Dwarf galaxy (ESO 356-4)

A large and very low-surface brightness galaxy.

At 120x, a 20-arcminute field due east of lamda-2 Fornacis seems to be hazier than other fields around, but not so you'd notice. Not found. (D: 20090127/28. U354)

NGC 897

A straight-forward star hop 1.5 degrees west of 5th magnitude psi Fornacis will bring you to this faint glow.

At 120x it is approximately round, growing brighter to the middle. Small star (V=11.4) due east (0.8 arcmin). (D: 20090127/28. U354)

This galaxy was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel. He wrote: "pB, S, R, psbM. Has a star 10th mag exactly following in the parallel just at the edge or 35 arcseconds distant from centre." (h 2475)

It is listed in Arp & Madore's Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations as AM 0218-335.

Brian Skiff notes that it has a stellar nucleus (15-cm, 140x).

SIMBAD: B=11, D=1.9'x1.3', PA=17, MT=[Sa], aka ESO 355-7, LEDA 8944.

HCNGC (1.03): D=2.2'x1.5', PA=17, V=12, B=12.9.

NGC 1291

Fornax lies within the first of two great loops of Eridanus the River a good place to put a furnace, just in case. Two degrees north-northwest of 4th mag e Eridani lies this bright galaxy.

At 120x it is easy to see, appearing as a round, 1-arcmin diameter glow, which grows brighter to the middle to a broad nucleus, within which is an even-brighter centre. Due north is a small star, a short way off (2 arcminutes from galactic centre). (D: 20090127/28. U390)

It is visible in 11x80 binoculars, but not easily. Danie Cronje has observed it in 10x50 binoculars, noting it appears almost stellar when glimpsed directly; with averted vision it is a small glow.

James Dunlop discovered this galaxy in 1826 from Paramatta, New South Wales, and included it as No. 487 in his catalogue. Using a 9-inch f/12 telescope, he described it as "a pretty bright round nebula, about 1.5' diameter, very bright and condensed to the centre, and very faint at the margin; with a very small star about 1' north, but not involved."

John Herschel at the Cape recorded it as "very bright; round; gradually much brighter in the middle; 90" arcseconds (hazy)" and a second time as "globular cluster, very bright; round; first gradually then suddenly very much brighter in the middle; mottled, but not resolved." (h 2521)

Note that Herschel actually recorded this galaxy as a separate object on another occasion, without realizing the duplication. On 1 November 1836 he recorded h 2518 as "very bright, round, gradually brighter in the middle (hazy)" and it was taken up in the NGC as NGC 1269.

Then, on 3 December 1901 R.T.A. Innes, observing with a 7-inch refractor at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, searched for h 2518 and failed to find it: He wrote: "Not visible in the 7-inch. This is perhaps the same as Dunlop 487 (NGC 1291), observed by h on the same night. h gives for the latter exactly the same declination and description as for h 2518 (NGC 1269). Dunlop 487 was well seen on the night that h 2518 could not be found".

At Helwan Observatory (outside Cairo, Egypt) the 30-inch Reynolds reflector was used to hunt for NGC 1269 in 1920. In Bulletin No 21 a brief note: "Not shown. Exposure 60 minutes." summarized the result. The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) classified it as a nonexistent object.

Meanwhile, Solon Bailey (Harvard College Observatory, 1908) investigated NGC 1291 as part of a new catalogue of bright clusters and nebulae. He remarked: "globular cluster? extremely condensed, not resolved on plate. ... This object is given as a globular cluster in the NGC. This appears probable, although it is not resolved on the Bruce plates..."

P J Melotte (1915) examined Franklin-Adams plates and decided it was not a cluster: "Appears as a diffuse star, or bright nebula, with some surrounding faint nebula."

Harold Knox-Shaw (1915) commented on the article by Melotte by describing the objects that had been photographed at Helwan with the 30-inch Reynolds reflector. He wrote: "Amongst [the star clusters] noted by Professor Bailey, but not included in Mr Melotte's catalogue, the Helwan plates confirm NGC 1291 as a nebula."

C V L Charlier (1918) also examined prints from the Franklin-Adams atlas and noted: "Remarkable object, bright, hazy star, very bright at the middle, mottled, almost round."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 21 (1920) it is described as "B, pL, nearly round, globular nebula with vBN surrounded by structureless nebulosity which falls off in brightness from the centre, giving the appearance of a globe of 1' diameter. Outside this is extremely giant structureless nebulosity about 5'x2' E 0deg approx." The description is from a plate taken with the 30-inch Reynolds reflector.

De Vaucouleurs (1956) examined photos taken with the 30-inch Reynolds reflector (stopped down to 20-inch) and commented: "bright inner part 3.6' x 3', faint outer regions 12' x 11'. ... extremely remarkable, vBN 1.1' x 1.0'; bar 3.3' x 1.0'; outer ring 8.2' x 7.3'."

It is listed in the "Third Reference Catalogue of Bright Galaxies" as having an outer ring of 8.11 arcminute diameter.

Hartung notes that this galaxy "looks not unlike a distant unresolved globular cluster; the edges diffuse away gradually to about 2' diameter with a small very bright central region . . it is easy for small apertures."

Steve Gottlieb, using a 13-inch Dobsonian, calls it "very bright, moderately large, round, very bright core, almost stellar nucleus, large faint halo. A star is very close NW."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor) calls it a very bright galaxy with a very large halo (50x), 8' diameter. At 140x, the core is oval (3:2). The halo is nearly uniformly bright, core suddenly brighter and has a strong sharp concentration to a sub-stellar nucleus, which is non-stellar even with direct vision.

NGC 1217

Acamar (theta Eridani) used to be the end of the river. Eridanus was then granted an extension and now reaches to Achernar (alpha Eridani) notice the similarity of the Arabic star names. An easy starhop 2 northeast of Acamar, just across the border into Fornax, lies this small galaxy.

At 120x and 150x, it is a faint small round glow, growing brighter to the middle. With some attention, it appears to be elongated roughly east-west. The central bright region seems to have a sharp nucleus or there is a small star involved. A small field star lies to the NNE (1.7 arcmin). A second, much fainter star, or perhaps a haze, lies between the two, to the north. (D: 20090127/28. U390)

As the noticeable nucleus suggests, this galaxy is classified as an AGN (LINER-type) in SIMBAD.

This galaxy was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel. He recorded it as "not vF, R, pslbM, 20 arcseconds. Has a star 11th mag 2' north.". He searched for it later, but wasn't as lucky: "Viewed past meridian. Seen in place but very very faint, as it began to cloud." (h 2508)

It is listed in Arp & Madore's Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations as AM 0304-391.

SIMBAD: B=13, D=1.6x1.0, PA=50, MT=[Sab], aka ESO 300-10, LEDA 11641, SGC 030412-3913.7.

HCNGC 1.03: V=12.4, B=13.3, D=1.6'x1.2'.

NGC 1404

It has to happen somewhere in the Universe. The imaginary border between two constellations Fornax and Eridanus runs through this galaxy.

NGC 1404 lies just 3 arcminutes away from 8th magnitude HD 22862, so it is very easy to locate. It is moderately bright, small and round, and grows brighter to the middle, seen at 120x. There is a small star close (0.8 arcmin) southeast. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

The galaxy can be clearly seen in a 2-inch refractor at 30x as an elongated glow.

It was discovered in 1837 by (I guess by now you know) John Herschel, who noted it as being "vB, R, psmbM, 40 arcseconds, has a star N.f.". On a second occasion he called it "vB; the 3rd of three, seen but no place taken or further description." (h 2571)

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is described as "very bright, small, round, very much brighter in the middle."

It is a member of the Fornax I Cluster as defined by Gerhard de Vaucouleurs (1975). The brightest members of this cluster are NGC 1399, NGC 1380, NGC 1404, NGC 1326 and NGC 1350. NGC 1316 and NGC 1365 are possibly foreground objects.

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 20 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "C2: Angularly small objects, almost stellar, easily missed in sweeping. Faint (seen only with difficulty)."

Steve Gottlieb, using a 13-inch Dobsonian, called it "bright, fairly small, round, bright core."

A.J. Crayon, using an 8-inch f/6 Newtonian, called it "round, 11th magnitude, has a little brighter middle with a star involved to east, at 60x."

Steve Coe, using a 13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian, notes: "Bright, pretty small, round, very much brighter middle at 150x. There is a 12th mag star involved. This compact galaxy grows with averted vision."

Magda Streicher observed it from Pietersburg, 1997 July 4. She wrote: "Another baby, very small, starlike, bright, and round galaxy. Together with a star to the south of this galaxy, it looks like two points of lights, the galaxy just hazier around."

Brian Skiff called it "very bright, 0'.75 diameter, gradually smoothly brighter to stellar nucleus. High surface brightness" (1982 Jan 25, 10-inch Newtonian). Using a 12-inch Newtonian he noted it had a "fairly bright core, 1' diameter overall, circular halo. No nucleus; pretty; smooth concentration."

SIMBAD: B=10.9, V=10.3, D=4.1'x3.4', PA=163, MT=[E...], aka Bennett 20, ESO 358-46, LEDA 13433.

HCNGC (1.03): V=10, B=11, D=3.5'x3.3', PA=165.

NGC 1399

A short 10-arcmin hop onwards from NGC 1404 brings you to NGC 1399, a pretty bright, pretty large, round glow, with a broad, bright, centre. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

Its quite understandable that Jack Bennett called it out as a comet faker.

It was first noted by John Herschel, in 1835, who recorded it as a "globular cluster, vB, pL, psbM, resolvable or resolved, 2'." (h 2569) He later noted that it was the second of three objects seen together.

Its interesting to note his remark about achieving partial resolution.

The galaxy is reasonably obvious in 11x80 binoculars, appearing as a faint, blurred star. It lies in a field richly scattered with stars, making location easy.

Solon Bailey (Harvard College Observatory, 1908) included it in his discussion of nebulae and clusters, commenting: "globular cluster? extremely condensed, not resolved on plate. ... On the Bruce plates, 1380 and 1399 appear similar. In the NGC, 1399 is called a globular cluster, while 1380 is not thus designated. In this region of the sky many such objects are shown on plates having long exposures. It seems probable that many of these objects are faint globular clusters, although they appear on the photographs merely as small nebulae, bright at the centre, similar to 1399."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is called "vB, S, R, vmbM, not resolved visually."

Harold Knox-Shaw (1915) notes that NGC 1380 and NGC 1399 "are almost certainly" nebulae, based on photos taken with the 30-inch Reynolds telescope.

C. V. L. Charlier (1918) described it as "hazy *, pB, R, bM, r."

It is a member of the Fornax I Group as defined by Gerhard de Vaucouleurs (1975).

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 19 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "C2: Angularly small objects, almost stellar, easily missed in sweeping. Faint (seen only with difficulty)."

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "10.9M; 1.4' diameter; bright and round with much brighter center..."

A. J. Crayon, using an 8-inch f/6 Newtonian, notes: "Round 11m and has a much brighter middle at 60x."

Steve Coe, observing with a 13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian, notes: "Bright, pretty large, round, suddenly much brighter in the middle with an almost stellar core at 150X. There is a 13th mag star about 30" to the north of the core."

Steve Gottlieb, also observing with a 13-inch, calls it "bright, large faint halo is broadly concentrated, brighter core. A star is superimposed 0.3' N of the center. This galaxy is the second brightest and second largest in the core of the Fornax cluster. N1404 is 10' SE."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "very bright, very large galaxy at 80x, with very faint halo to 5' diameter, reach southward to two 13-14th mag stars. 140x: Core very much brighter, 45-arcsec across with very strong, even, concentration to a stellar nucleus. 13.5-mag star on northern edge of core." Using a 12-inch Newtonian he noted it has a "30-arcsecond core. A 14.2-mag star lies 30 arcseconds to the north. The core is unevenly bright, the halo circular. The diameter (with halo) is 1.2 arcminutes, pretty well concentrated."

SIMBAD: B=10.3, V=9.9, D=3.0'x3.0', MT=[ED...], aka Bennett 19, ESO 358-45, LEDA 13418.

HCNGC (1.03) V=9.4, B=10.4, D=7.0'x6.5', PA=76.

NGC 1380A

A charming galaxy in the Fornax cluster.

It shares the 21' 120x field with two bright stars (V=8.4, 8.9; 13' apart), on a line connecting them, and appears as an elongated (1:2.5) slash of pretty faint light oriented north-south. From the rough sketch, it measures 3.3' x 1.3'. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

This galaxy was first described by Gerhard de Vaucouleurs (1956) from a photographic plate taken with the 30-inch Reynolds reflector. Comments: "Measures 1.5'x0.3'. = Helwan 51, SBN."

A. J. Crayon, using an 8-inch f/6 Newtonian (60x), was unable to see it.

Steve Gottlieb (13-inch Newtonian) called it "faint, small, very thin streak 4:1 N-S. Located 15' NNE of N1380."

Brian Skiff, using a 6-inch refractor, called it "fairly faint lens at 140x, 1.0'x0'.3 in PA165. Weak, even, concentration." Using a 25-cm reflector, he noted: "125x/190x. fairly faint, low surface brightness. Elongated north-south, grows only a little brighter across the centre. Very small middle, 30"x10". Best at 190x, so must have only a moderate surface brightness."

SAC 7.64: V=12.4, D=2.4'x0.7', PA=179, MT=[SO], aka ESO 358-33.

NGC 1380

This member of the Fornax cluster is pretty bright, pretty large, round, and grows broadly brighter to the middle, seen at 120x. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

It is readily seen in a 2-inch refractor at 30x, appearing as a faint cometary patch of diffuse light, midway between two 8th mag stars.

This galaxy was discovered in 1826 by James Dunlop, from Paramatta, New South Wales. Using a 9-inch f/12 telescope, he described it as "a rather faint pretty well-defined elliptical nebula, about 1' long, and 50 arcseconds broad, a little brighter to the centre."

John Herschel logged it during his stay at the Cape as "very bright; large; round; pretty suddenly brighter towards the middle; A fine nebula." (h 2559) As with many other of Dunlop's nebulae, Herschel had trouble finding them because of the inaccurate positions recorded by the younger observer. Herschel wrote: "The observation of the place like that of Dunlop 591 above was lost by setting the instrument on the place given in Mr Dunlop's Catalogue, and relying on his RA (3h 31m) which is too great, instead of sweeping over them, when they could not have escape being regularly taken."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is called "vBN, with pL atmosphere, E 10 deg."

P. J. Melotte (1915) noted that it "resembles NGC 1291 but a little larger."

Harold Knox-Shaw (1915) notes that NGC 1380 and NGC 1399 "are almost certainly" nebulae, based on photos taken with the 30-inch Reynolds telescope.

E. J. Hartung notes that "this object is not difficult for small apertures; it is an ellipse 3' x 1.5' in pa zero degrees, rising much to the centre."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 17 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "C2: Angularly small objects, almost stellar, easily missed in sweeping. Faint (seen only with difficulty)."

William P. Clarke (Webb Society Nebulae and Clusters Section Report No. 11, January 1993) writes: "Nearly edge-on spiral with large bright nucleus. Extended N-S. Mag 14 star S.p. nucleus. (20.8-inch, x140)"

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "11.4M; 3'x 1' extent; lenticular with much brighter center; N-most of a crowd of galaxies requiring larger aperture; 3.5' to W, just E of a 14M star, look for very, very faint and small spiral galaxy NGC 1380A (14M; 2'x 0.5' extent)."

Steve Gottlieb, using a 13-inch Newtonian, calls it "very bright, elongated 2:1 N-S, bright core, faint elongated halo. A very faint mag 14 star is SW of the core 1.2' from the center."

Brian Skiff, using a 6-inch refractor, notes: "fairly bright oval @ 140x, 3'x1' in PA10. 20" core much brighter, circular, with strong, even concentration to a very bright sub-stellar nucleus. A 14.5-mag star lies just within the halo, south-west of centre." With a 10-inch reflector, he saw it as "bright, 1'.5x0'.75 in PA20, maybe 1'.75 long. Major axis has bright streak along it, thin diffuse halo contours it. More nearly circular core 0'.5 across grows much brighter to the center, but no stellar nucleus. Has a 14th mag star on southwest." With a 12-inch it was "elongated nearly PA 0, 2'.5x1'. Fairly well concentrated with non-stellar nucleus. SW 1' is 14.5-mag star."

SIMBAD: B=11.1, D=4.79'x2.82, PA=173, MT=[S0], Dunlop 574, Bennett 17, ESO 358-28, LEDA 13318.

HCNGC (1.03): V=9.9, B=10.9, D=4.9'x1.9', PA=7.

NGC 1382

Four galaxies, members of the Fornax cluster, just managing to share the same 21-arcmin (120x) field of view: NGC 1382, NGC 1381, NGC 1379 & NGC 1387.

The northernmost of the grouping is NGC 1382, which is faint and round, and isn't really much brighter to the middle. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

For once, this galaxy wasn't discovered by John Herschel! It was spotted in 1865 by Julius Schmidt, using a 6.2-inch refractor.

At the position recorded by Schmidt, the Helwan observers found nothing the Bulletin for 1915 comments: "Not shown (exposure 80 min)."

So, too, when it was studied in 1956 by Gerhard de Vaucouleurs: "Not found in catalogue position, but Helwan 53 is 12' f, in 3h 35.5m, -35 21' (1950.0); this is also the Mt Wilson identification in MWC 626, 1940."

Steve Gottlieb, using a 13-inch Newtonian, called it "very faint, round, fairly small, very diffuse. On a line with N1381 9.5' SW and N1379 20' SW."

Brian Skiff, using a 10-inch Newtonian, noted it was "not hard @ 95x. Low surface brightness. Circular, seems large, but probably only 0'.5 diameter."

SIMBAD: B=13.8, D=1.48'x 1.26', PA=26, MT=[S0] , aka NGC 1380B, ESO 358-37, LEDA 13354.

HCNGC (1.03): V=12.9, B=13.9, D=0.9'x0.7', PA=25

NGC 1381

Four galaxies, members of the Fornax cluster, just managing to share the same 21-arcmin (120x) field of view: NGC 1382, NGC 1381, NGC 1379 & NGC 1387.

NGC 1381 is lovely it is moderately bright, much elongated (1:4, NW-SE), with a bright nucleus. It appears quite distinct from the others in this field of view. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

This galaxy was also somehow missed by John Herschel and was picked up in 1865 by Julius Schmidt, using a 6.2-inch refractor. He called it only "Faint."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is logged as "pF, pL, vmE 135deg, BN, spindle."

E. J. Hartung calls it a "narrow spindle, at least 2' x 0.4' in PA 135 , with a small concentrated centre".

Steve Coe, observing with a 13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian, notes: "Faint, pretty small, much elongated 3 X 1 in PA 165, brighter in the middle at 135x."

A. J. Crayon, using an 8-inch f/6 Newtonian, notes: "It has a much brighter elongated middle in a southeasterly position angle, at 60x."

Steve Gottlieb, using a 13-inch Newtonian, notes: "fairly bright, edge-on 3:1 NW-SE, bright core, faint elongated halo. A mag 14 star is 1.8' SE of center."

Brian Skiff, using a 6-inch refractor, called it a "moderately faint spindle in PA135 @ 140x. 1'.5x0'.5, width includes approximately circular bulge, tips very thin. Core is 20-arcsec in diameter with stellar nucleus. Moderately sharp concentration overall." With a 10-inch Newtonian, he noted: "125x/190x: small, difficult. 0'.6x0'.3 in PA120. Stellar nucleus and thin core with starry texture. Narrow rind for a halo." Using a 12-inch he saw it as "1'.5x0'.5 in PA135. ESE 1'.5 is m14 *. Sub-stellar nucleus, fairly well concentrated."

SIMBAD: B=12.3, D=2.63'x 0.91', PA=139, MT=[S0] , aka ESO 358-29, LEDA 13321.

HCNGC (1.03): V=11.5, B=12.5, D=2.9'x0.8', PA=139

NGC 1379

Four galaxies, members of the Fornax cluster, just managing to share the same 21-arcmin (120x) field of view: NGC 1382, NGC 1381, NGC 1379 & NGC 1387.

NGC 1379 and NGC 1387 are very similar in appearance: pretty bright, round, and are brighter towards their centres. NGC 1379 is the slightly larger but a little fainter than NGC 1387. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

It was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel at the Cape. He noted it as "pB, R, gpmbM, 70 arcseconds" (h 2561). On a later occasion he called it "very bright".

As with other similar galaxies, it was classified as a globular cluster.

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is called "B, S, R, vmbM, not resolved visually."

Harold Knox-Shaw (1915) noted it was not a globular cluster, but probably a nebula.

C. V. L. Charlier (1918) called it "hazy *, F, R, mbM, r."

E. J. Hartung notes that "this interesting field sprinkled with stars contains three nebulae, all fairly bright . . . NGC 1379 is the most preceding, and is round with a bright centre, and about 1.5' across".

Steve Gottlieb (13-inch Newtonian) called it "bright, almost round, bright core, almost stellar nucleus."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "moderately bright galaxy at 80x. 140x: 2' diameter with strong even concentration to very small bright core with stellar nucleus just visible over it." (10-inch reflector): "more diffuse than NGC 1387, 0'.75 diameter, circular. Bar extends from center NW, another arm diametrically NE-SW (PA 30); these are transient. Gradually brighter across center. Best @ 125x. 20' field has many 13th mag and fainter stars." (12-inch reflector): "Little concentration for elliptical type galaxy. All core, with occasional star or stellar nucleus. 45" diameter, circular."

SIMBAD: B=11.9, D=2.57'x 2.51', PA=6, MT=[E] , aka ESO 358-27, LEDA 13299

HCNGC (1.03): V=10.7, B=11.7, D=2.0'x1.9', PA=15.

NGC 1387

Four galaxies, members of the Fornax cluster, just managing to share the same 21-arcmin (120x) field of view: NGC 1382, NGC 1381, NGC 1379 & NGC 1387.

NGC 1379 and NGC 1387 are very similar in appearance: pretty bright, round, and are brighter towards their centres. NGC 1379 is the slightly larger but a little fainter than NGC 1387. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

Many years ago I viewed it in the 15.5-inch f/9 Paul Roos telescope at 220x and saw it as small, with a bright nucleus, appearing like a star seen through clouds.

It was discovered in 1835 by John Herschel at the Cape. He recorded it as "globular cluster, vB, R, gmbM, 90 arcseconds, A globular cluster in all probability identical with this, was also seen in Sweep 636, while searching beyond the meridian for Dunlop 562." On a second occasion he called it "vB: the 1st of three, seen but no place or further description." (h 2564)

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is called "vB, S, R, vmbM, not resolved visually."

C. V. L. Charlier (1918) called it "hazy *, pF, R, bM, r."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 18 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "C2: Angularly small objects, almost stellar, easily missed in sweeping. Faint (seen only with difficulty)."

Green & Dixon (1978) find V=11.24.

E. J. Hartung notes that "this interesting field sprinkled with stars contains three nebulae... NGC 1387 is round with a small bright centre and about 1.5' across."

Steve Coe (13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian): "Pretty bright, pretty small, round, much brighter in the middle at 150X."

Steve Gottlieb (13-inch Newtonian): "Moderately bright, small, round, possible faint stellar nucleus."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "moderately bright galaxy at @ 80x. 140x: 1'.5 diameter in very faint halo, strong sharp concentration to a very bright sub-stellar nucleus. Interior seems elongated ~E-W." (10-inch reflector): 0'.8x0'.6 in PA110-120. Broadly brighter to the centre, no core, but stellar nucleus is visible which seems elongated, 6"x2". Pretty blank field at high powers." (12-inch reflector): "fairly bright core. Very similar to NGC 1389, a little fainter, 0'.75 diameter."

SIMBAD: B=11.8, D=3.24'x 3.02', PA=108, MT=[SB0] , aka Bennett 18, ESO 358-36, LEDA 13344

HCNGC (1.03): V=10.8, B=11.8, D=2.4'x2.2', PA=120.

NGC 1389, "Mimosa Galaxy"

Three galaxies in the Fornax cluster, strung out north-south along half-a-degree of sky. From north to south these are NGC 1389, NGC 1386 and NGC 1392.

At 48x and 120x, NGC 1389 is moderately bright and round, and not obviously brighter to the centre.

With three field stars, the galaxy makes a perfect replica of Crux! The long arm is almost 5 arcmin long, "alpha Cru" is V=9.8 and "gamma Cru" is V=12.1. "Beta Cru" is marked by the galaxy. "delta Cru" is 12.5 or fainter. Lovely! (D: 20090127/28. U355)

This charming galaxy was missed by John Herschel while at the Cape, and was picked up by Julius Schmidt in 1865 with a 6.2-inch refractor.

Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 9 (1912) calls it "F, S, R, bM"

Steve Coe (13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian): "Pretty faint, small, round, much brighter middle at 150X."

Steve Gottlieb (13-inch Newtonian): "Moderately bright, small, almost round, weak concentration."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "Moderately faint @ 80x. 140x: oval 0'.8x0'.6 in PA 30 with strong even concentration to a bright stellar nucleus. Makes a parallelogram with 10th-mag star north and two 12.5-13th mag stars east." (10-inch reflector): "On SW corner of quadrilateral of 11-12th mag stars. Nearly circular, 0'.75 diameter, elongated a bit NE-SW. Stellar nucleus, broadly brighter core undefined from halo." (12-inch reflector): "Found @ 145x, 2'.5 S of 9.5-mag star. 220x gives 45" diameter, moderate concentration, no stellar core."

SIMBAD: B=12. 6, D=2.57'x1.58', PA=30, MT=[S0], aka ESO 358-38, LEDA 13360.

HCNGC (1.03): V=11.4, B=12.4, D=2.1'x1.4', PA=30.

NGC 1386

Three galaxies in the Fornax cluster, strung out north-south along half-a-degree of sky. From north to south these are NGC 1389, NGC 1386 and NGC 1392.

At 48x and 120x, NGC 1386 is pretty bright, elongated NE-SW (1:3) and has a bright nucleus. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

Back in the day, the 15.5-inch Paul Roos telescope showed it as large and diffuse, easy to see, with an elongated core.

Another easy galaxy missed by John Herschel at the Cape; like several other Fornax galaxies it was first seen by Julius Schmidt in 1865 with a 6.2-inch refractor.

Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 9 (1912) notes: "F, pL, mE 25 deg, probably spiral."

Steve Coe (13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian): "Pretty faint, pretty large, much elongated 2.5 X 1 in PA 0, there is a bright middle to this nice edge-on at 150X."

Steve Gottlieb (13-inch Newtonian): "moderately bright, elongated 2:1 SW-NE, bright core."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "moderately bright oval @ 80x. 140x: 2'x0'.5 in PA 25. Moderately even concentration in halo, then suddenly much brighter to a conspicuous stellar nucleus." (10-inch reflector): "Bright, elongated in PA 30, 2'x0'.6. Stellar nucleus and possibly a 14th mag star on N edge of center. Broadly brighter core 0'.3x0'.2, faintly mottled: possibly the influence from stars in the centre." (12-inch reflector): "Located @ 149x. 220x shows elongation in PA 40, 2'x0'.5. Low surface brightness halo with brighter core. NW 1'.5 is a star."

SIMBAD: B=12.2, D=3.39'x1.29', PA=25, MT=[Sa], aka ESO 358-35, LEDA 13333.

HCNGC (1.03): V=11.2, B=12.1, D=3.5'x1.5', PA=25.

NGC 1392

Three galaxies in the Fornax cluster, strung out north-south along half-a-degree of sky. From north to south these are NGC 1389, NGC 1386 and NGC 1392.

At 48x and 120x, NGC 1392 is a faint round glow, of low surface brightness. Not brighter to the centre. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

SIMBAD: B=13.9, D=0.33'x0.24', PA=20, aka ESO 358-40, LEDA 13383.

NGC 1365

Just over a degree east of the chi Fornacis trio lies NGC 1365. Be prepared.

Scanning with 120x (21-arcmin field) delivers an unbelievable sight. The casual Z shape of this amazing galaxy is clear as daylight. And its large. The gracefully curved western-northern arm is not as prominent as the eastern-southern arm. The short straight nebulosity joining them has a very bright central region, triangular in shape, pointing west. An 11th mag star lies to the northwest of this nucleus, nestling inside the curve of the western arm. About six times as far, due east, is a narrow triangle of 12th mag stars.

I didn't study or sketch the galaxy any further; it was already sitting very low above the horizon, and one doesn't do such a wonderful object such an injustice.

Good heavens. (D: 20090127/28. U355)

Despite its impressive size, its not always an easy binocular target. On occasion I've not been able to see it in 11x80s, when nearby NGC 1316 and NGC 1291 could be seen. At other times, 11x80s show it as a delicate round glow, more difficult than NGC 1316, but about the same size with averted vision. Quite low surface brightness, and quite difficult to hold directly.

This amazing galaxy was discovered by James Dunlop in 1826.

John Herschel sketched it, and noted: "A very remarkable nebula. A decided link between the nebula M 51 and M 27. Centre very bright; somewhat extended; gradually very much brighter to the middle; a 13th magnitude star near the edge of the halo involved. The area of the halo very faint; general position of the longer axis 20.8 whole breadth = 3'." His second record reads: "very bright, extended, resolvable nucleus; or has 2 or 3 stars involved; the preceding Arc is the brighter. I think the oval is in some degree filled up to the south."

Stewart (Harvard College Observatory, 1908) notes: "Remarkable, open, 2-branch spiral, double nucleus."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 9 (1912) it is recorded as "Remarkable; pB, 7'x4', curious two-branched spiral with either two elongated nuclei or a very bright condensed centre with a dark ray across it."

Gerhard de Vaucouleurs (1956): "bright inner part 10.8' x 4', faint outer regions 11.4' x 6.6'. Very remarkable bright nucleus with dark lane, knots in arms."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 16 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "B1: Extended objects: hazy spots, streaks or patches circular or slightly elliptical."

E. J. Hartung notes that "this barred spiral is the best object of its type for the southern observer. Photos disclose very well-marked bar features in an elliptical system 6.8' x 3.2' which 30cm shows as a bright round diffuse centre across which is a broad faint bar about 3' long in pa 70 deg. From the ends of this come streams of faint nebulosity, from the preceding end in pa 20 deg and from the following end in pa 200 deg, so that the general shape is that of a large open imperfect ellipse with dark areas on either side of the bar. Smaller apertures show correspondingly less but 15cm indicates the bright central region clearly."

Walter Scott Houston calls this galaxy the "highlight of . . a delightful group of more than a dozen galaxies . . this galaxy is a 9th magnitude barred spiral that spans 8'x3'. It was very conspicuous in my 4-inch."

William P. Clarke (Webb Society Nebulae and Clusters Section Report No. 11, January 1993): "Excellent barred spiral. Bright nucleus and bar with fainter spiral arms attached. Bar extended E-W with one arm extending north from the west end of the bar and the other arm extending south from the east end of the bar. Faint star involved N.p. the nucleus. (17.5-inch Newtonian, x83)"

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "11.2M; 8'x 3.5' extent; elongated with bright nucleus; barred spiral with trailing arms to NW and SE; 13M star 2' NW of core."

Roger N. Clark discusses it on p 87 of his "Visual Astronomy of the Deep Sky" (1990).

A. J. Crayon, using an 8-inch f/6 Newtonian, notes: "At 100x is 5'x2', has a suddenly much brighter large middle of 2'x1' which is south of center and has three 13m stars nearby."

Steve Coe (13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian): "Pretty bright, pretty large, bright nucleus at 165X. There is bar structure seen with averted vision. Two spiral arms are dim but visible in good seeing on a fair night with the 17.5". Going to the 13" on a night I rated 7/10 for seeing and transparency there is more detail visible. The galaxy is bright, large, elongated in PA 0, much brighter middle at 135X. The barred spiral structure is obvious and there is a 12th mag star involved in the northern arm about 1' north of the nucleus."

Steve Gottlieb (13-inch Newtonian): "Bright, elongated core, large, 3' diameter, very diffuse outer halo."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "Beautiful barred spiral @ 80x! 140x: the circular 40" core has strong even concentration to faint stellar nucleus. This lies in relatively uniformly bright E-W bar. Northern arm arcs NNE from western end, passing west of V=13.6 star. Southern arm goes south then west from eastern end of bar. It has a bright spot due south of bar-end, then ends SSW of centre, south of 14.5-mag star. The halo extends W to nearest of a triangle of 14th mag stars. Dim patches north and south of bar." (10-inch reflector): "Fairly conspicuous at low magnification. Large, circular haze, 3' diam, quite faint. Core 20"-30" across, also circular, almost uniform in brightness (profile like a smooth lump). 13.5-mag star on NW side. Very faint band comes up from western side of core to a star, another from eastern side south. No stellar nucleus. Not a great object."

Two supernovae erupted in this galaxy in 1957 and again in 1983.

SIMBAD: B=10.3, V=9.5, D=11.0'x6.6', MT=[SBbc], PA=32, aka Bennett 16, ESO 358-17, LEDA 13179.

HCNGC (1.03): V=9.5, B=10.3, D=9.8'x5.5', PA=32.

NGC 2438

Join Sirius (alpha CMa) to Muliphen (gamma CMa) and continue on in that direction for twice the distance, and you land across the border into Puppis and in a field rich with open clusters.

The most prominent two are NGC 2422 and NGC 2437 (Messier 46 & 47).

Lurking on the outskirts of NGC 2437 is the planetary nebula NGC 2438. It is a large oval glow with a bright star appended. The elongation is in the direction of this star. In the centre of the nebula is a much fainter star. The nebula is brightest around the edges, growing slightly darker to the centre. (D: 20090123/24)

The nebula was discovered on 19 March 1786 by William Herschel. John observed it from both the UK and South Africa. In his Cape notes, he wrote: "a very fine planetary nebula, oval, uniform in light, and of a very flat appearance; rather faint; diam in RA = 4 seconds; has a star 15th mag on it, and one 13th mag close to its border. This object is excentrically situated in a superb cluster of stars 12..16th mag. (46 Messier)" On a second occasion he called it "a fine, nearly uniform, slight elliptic planetary nebula, 40 arcseconds diameter. A star 14th mag is excentrically situated in or on it, which is doubtless only superposed and belongs to the fine cluster Mess 46 in which (somewhat north of the most compressed part) this object is situated. A very uncommon and indeed unique combination, if No. 3154 [NGC 2818] be not a case in point."

In the 5th edition of Webb's Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes it is described as ". . . a feeble neb. on the northern verge [of NGC 2437], is in Lassell's 20-foot reflector 'an astonishing and interesting object.'; he and the E. of Rosse see it annular; also Buffham with a 9-inch reflector."

Gerrit Penning observed it on 23 May 2004 with the 13-inch refractor at Boyden Observatory just outside Bloemfontein. He wrote: "One of the more acceptable planetary nebulae through a medium telescopes, due to detail visible. It was a surprise to see the centre star (using slight averted vision) ... The nebula is situated in the very impressive and large M46 open cluster, which gives it additional focus of attention. The nebula itself appeared through the 13-inch as a faint cloudy (smooth) oval-rectangular object with an evident darker inner "circle region" in which a very small white star is situated, most probably the left-over star after the "explosion". It is visible using slight averted vision. No other characteristics were evident.

SIMBAD: aka PN Sa 2-13, PN G231.8+04.1 (HD 62099).

HCNGC (1.03): V=10.8, B=10.1, D=73"x68".

NGC 2439, "Bold Arrow Cluster"

Locate the tail of the dog, Canis Major. Join a line from Wezen (delta CMa) to Aludra (eta CMa) which marks the tip of the tail. Continue on in that direction a similar distance and you'll be looking at NGC 2439 (or very close to it).

At 120x, a 21-arcmin field shows a beautiful cluster with one bright star on its eastern edge, half a dozen secondaries, and many (~80) faint stars. There are two large prominent gaps, ringed with stars: an oval on the east, and a triangle on the west. Together, this gives the impression of a stubby arrow-shape, outlined in stars. It's longest axis (NE-SW) is 9.6 arcmin long. Quick sketch made. (D: 20090127/28. U361)

11x80 binoculars show the cluster readily; at its expected position in the sky you will notice a decidedly nebulous red star (R Pup, V=6.56, B-V=+1.18) which is the brightest member of the cluster.

The cluster was discovered by John Herschel in 1835. He recorded it as "a cluster of about 150 stars, B, pL, p rich, not much more compressed to the middle, 8' diameter, has one star 8th mag, one red one 9th mag, the rest 12..14th mag." (h 3094)

Steve Coe (13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian): "Bright, large, pretty rich, 42 stars counted at 100X. The center of this cluster is dark and this bizarre absorption from dark nebulae makes the cluster take on a horseshoe or "Arc de Triumph" shape."

SIMBAD: B=7.3, V=6.9, D=9', MT=[23r], aka Cl Collinder 158, Cl VDBH 6.

HCNGC (1.03): V=6.9, D=10'x10'.

NGC 4463

On the fringe of the Coal Sack, near the foot of the Cross, lies NGC 4463, according to the Millennium Star Atlas.

At 120x, it's not really a cluster at all. I see here two bright stars and 20 others, loosely scattered, and not really distinct from the background. (D: 20090127/28. MSA 1002)

Through 11x80 binoculars, its clear there is something here; its nebulous nature is apparent when sweeping. I once looked it up in the 4-inch f/14.7 refractor that used to belong to the then-newly-founded Engineering Faculty of the University of Stellenbosch. An 18mm eyepiece shows a coarse cluster, about 5 arcmin across, of large and small stars. Fainter stars lie to the west of the two brighter ones (which show no colour). Using up to 214x on the cluster, not many more stars were seen.

This cluster was first seen in 1835 by John Herschel; he recorded it as "Cluster VIII class; poor; scattered. The northern of two stars 8th mag taken." (h 3395)

Robert Trumpler (Lick Observatory, 1930) gives the diameter as 5' and the class as 1 3 p.

An observer, writing in the ASV Journal (Vol 24 No 3 June 1971) called it a "small U-shaped cluster."

Magda Streicher reported observing it on two occasions. The first was on 20 May 2002: "Has the appearance of a blunt arrow, with drooping shoulders. ... At the heart of the cluster lies a 9th magnitude white star, the other stars of the cluster fading to around 12th magnitude." On a second occasion, she described it as "Large, bright pretty open cluster contains about 12 stars. Very elongated (south to north) resembles a tree or the Christian fish sign. On top of this tree a bright yellow white star (2 magnitudes brighter) with fainter stars hanging from the branches lower down on both sides. Very much spacious, spans across my field of view (8-inch SCT, 26mm eyepiece)."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "Nice cluster of faint stars dominated by two 9th mag stars aligned N-S. 30 stars seen in 5' diameter at 140x, well concentrated towards the centre and southern of the two brighter stars. A faint knot is seen at the centre close to this star."

SIMBAD: B=7.6, V=7.2, D=3.5', MT=[13m], aka Cl Collinder 260, Cl VDBH 135.

Cl Ruprecht 98

At the junction of Crux, Centaurus and Musca lies Ruprecht 98.

Five bright and two-dozen secondary stars are shown at 120x, displaying a remarkable angular arrangement of members, both overall and in several short rows. Generally the cluster is shaped like a curved rectangle oriented NNE-SSW. Not impressive, but does look like something. Should be sketched, really. (20090127/28. MSA 1002)

This was the last observation of the evening, brought to a premature end at 02:30 by unusual, strong, winds. So strong, in fact, that the "Theatre" was almost torn down, and I had to dismantle it, cursing, in record time.

11x80 binoculars will show it, as a mottled, nebulous patch, easy to spot. It lies in an area rich in faint stars (between a 7th mag star and a small gathering of dimmer stars).

Vogt & Moffat (1973) give the size as 10' x 7'. They studied 11 cluster members and derived a distance of 1100 light years.

SIMBAD: B=7.3, V=7.0, D=14', MT=[32m], aka Cl VDBH 125, OCL 868, COCD 300.

NGC 3242

Always start your night with a bang. The first object of tonight's session was the Ghost of Jupiter, NGC 3242 in Hydra.

At 120x it is an obvious target, making a triangle with two stars (V=9.9 & 11.4) southward (sketch). It is a large and bright planetary nebula with soft edges. Oval in shape, with a large, approximately circular, smooth, inner disc. (0.8' x 0.6', SSE-NNW). (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

This planetary was discovered on 7 February 1785 by William Herschel, with his newly completed 18.7-inch f/13 speculum telescope. He called it "a beautiful, very brilliant globe of light; a little hazy on the edges, but the haziness goes off very suddenly, so as not to exceed the 20th part of the diameter, which I suppose to be from 30 to 40 arcseconds. It is round, or perhaps a very little elliptical, and all over of an uniform brightness: I suppose the intensity of its light to be equal to that of a star of the 9th magnitude." and also as "Beautiful, brilliant, planetary disk, ill defined, but uniformly bright, the light of the colour of Jupiter. 40 arcseconds diameter. Second observation, near 1' diameter by estimation."

John Herschel, while at the Cape, studied it extensively. He recorded it as "a very fine, large, planetary nebula, 25 arcseconds in diameter; a little elliptic; very bright; uniform, but owing to a hot wind too ill defined for detailed examination." On the next sweep, he saw it as "planetary nebula, of a decided pale blue colour, but not so full a blue as the planetary nebula [NGC 3918] ; oval; pos of the longer axis = 135 degrees approx.; 30 arcseconds long; 25 arcseconds broad; uniform and very bright; but not quite sharp at the edges." On a third occasion he called it "very bright, decidedly elliptic, a little dim at edges; colour very decided pale blue; diam in RA = 3s. Pos of longer axis about 130 degrees; pos of the nearer of two companion stars = 172 degrees." His final observation was "viewed past meridian; place from Piazzis' Catalogue. Somewhat hazy, with a slight nebulous atmosphere. Colour a decided blue; at all events a good sky-blue. Elliptic; pos of axis = 140 degrees; diam in RA 2.5s. Has 2 companion stars (a) pos = 173 deg. (b) pos = 137.8 deg."

Its nickname, "Ghost of Jupiter", was coined by Admiral Smythe.

Texereau and Sagot, in Revue des Constellations, write: "Easily visible, starlike in a 27mm 13x finder. Readily recognized as a planetary of appreciable size and with shaded edges in a 55mm refractor at 50x. Central part uniform and very bright in a 95mm refractor at 95x. Elliptical in a 200mm reflector at 200x. Central part grayish, and squared into a bright lozenge with a dimming outer edge, in a 215mm reflector at 375x. Colour bluish or yellow."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 45 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "C1: Angularly small objects, almost stellar, easily missed in sweeping. Bright (well seen)."

Walter Scott Houston notes that a 6-inch scope will show a bright central region as well as traces of a fainter outer envelope. "In my 5-inch Moonwatch scope it is bright and easy . . since the surrounding field is poor, this planetary is quite eyecatching. It is ringlike, with a surface brightness only three times less than M57 . . I have used up to 150x on NGC 3242 without image breakdown. Under good conditions a 6-inch scope shows the 11th mag central star."

Steve Coe (17-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian): "100x: Wow, Looks like CBS eye, greenish at all powers, Central star easy at 300X. Very bright, large, round. At 650X on a night I rated 8/10 for seeing, there is a small, dark circular area around the central star. A very nice planetary with lots of internal detail at high power." (13-inch f/5.6 Dobsonian): "100x bright, pretty large, little elongated 1.2 X 1 PA 135, central star comes and goes with the seeing, light green or aqua. 220X: CBS eye obvious dark background and bright oval that encompassed the central star. Still very light green. UHC makes the central star disappear. 440x: Best view, several bright knots to southeast of central star, bright spots within CBS oval. High power shows the color as grey, not green, but high power brings out most detail, including central star and bright knots in disk."

Magda Streicher observed it on 5 April 1997 (8-inch SCT, 18mm ep) and noted: "Outstanding bright planetary nebula with round sharp edges and a bluish colour. On both sides of this planetary nebula double stars can be seen."

Brian Skiff (7-cm refractor): "very bright, small, uniform disk @ 30x, making 30-60-90 triangle with fainter stars south and east. Best at 110x, which shows lenticular bright core aligned SE-NW, and fainter circular collar." (6-inch refractor): "38x: pale blue and very bright, 8th magnitude. 203x: bright inner core with fainter outer core. Bright spot occasionally noted on northwest." (10-inch reflector): "oval, elongated E-W. Diffuse edges. On NW side is a bright spot, otherwise featureless."

SIMBAD: B=10.3, V=7.0, aka Ghost of Jupiter, Cat's Eye, Bennett 45, ESO 568-5, PN G261.0+32.0 (HD 90255).

HCNGC (1.03) V=7.7, B=8.6, D=45"x36".

SAC (7.64): V=8.6, D=40"x35".

NGC 3621

One diagonal of Corvus points the way to 3.5-mag xi Hydrae, which is the starting point of your star hop to the spiral galaxy NGC 3621.

At 120x the galaxy appears as a large, more-or-less elongated glow set tightly amongst stars. At 300x it shows as an elongated glow with dim outer halo. The bright central part is evenly lit, with no appearance of a nucleus. 3.3' x 1.6' (PA from sketch: NW-SE). The rough sketch shows all visible stars close-surrounding the galaxy. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

This galaxy was discovered in 1790 by William Herschel; he noted it as "cB, E 70 degrees np-sf, vgbM, 7' long, 4' broad, within a parallelogram."

James Dunlop observed it from Paramatta, New South Wales and described it as "a very faint pretty large nebula, about 2' broad and 4' long, very faint at the edges. The brightest and most condensed part is near the south following extremity; a small star is involved in the north preceding extremity, and there are two small stars near the south extremity, but not involved."

John Herschel (at the Cape) called it "pB, vL, oval, vgvlbM, resolvable, 5' long, 3' broad."

Stewart (Harvard College Observatory, 1908) notes: "Remarkable, large, close, spiral."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 46 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "B1: Extended objects: hazy spots, streaks or patches circular or slightly elliptical."

E. J. Hartung notes: "lying in a trapezium of four stars in good contrast with a scattered star field is this conspicuous hazy ellipse about 5' x 3' in pa 160 deg, rising to the centre broadly . . quite easy, though faint, with 7.5cm."

Steve Coe (17-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian): "100x: B, L, elongated, much brighter in the middle, seen in finder and 10x50 binoculars, nice."

Magda Streicher recorded it on 7 June 1997 as "Just a smudge of light. Little brighter to the middle. Resembles a sharp edge. 4 stars. Small."

Mauritz Geyser imaged the galaxy on 18 March 2005 as part of his supernova search programme; he used an 8-inch f/5 SkyWatcher Newtonian and an SBIG ST-7E CCD camera.

Brian Skiff (7x35 binoculars): "Fairly faint, low surface brightness, pretty small. Weak, even, concentration." (6-inch refractor): "Large, fairly bright galaxy surrounded by stars at 80x. 140x: 8'x2' in PA 150 with strong broad concentration. Brighter part (not really the core) is 2'x1', much less elongated than the halo. Many starlings seen over brighter part. Halo doesn't quite reach 10th mag star SSE, near major axis, which is southern of two similar-brightness stars S and SW. Off to east is 12th mag star; NNW (W of maj axis) is triangle of fainter stars. Halo extends past triangle to north, where there are some ~14th mag stars. Triangle of stars closest to center (13.0-mag) is on major axis."

SIMBAD: B=10.0, V=9.2, D=10.9'x5.9', MT=[Sc], aka Dunlop 617, Bennett 46, ESO 377-37, LEDA 34554.

NGC 3885

About midway between Corvus and xi Hydrae lies the spiral NGC 3885.

60x: A moderately bright (or is that pretty faint?), generally round, small, glow, making a 1.5' triangle with two stars (sketch). 300x: 1.1' x 0.8', fuzzy halo, broad brighter central area, with a pinprick nucleus; this tiny nucleus is especially prominent with averted vision. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Surprisingly, it isn't classified as a Seyfert.

Discovered in 1790 by William Herschel, who called it ""eF, pS, R, vgbM, stellar, just preceding a vS star."

John Herschel at the Cape recorded it as "pB, lE,psbM." and "pB, S."

The discrepancy in brightness estimates is noteworthy; as Walter Scott Houston speculated, either the sky conditions that night were horrible, or his fast-tarnishing speculum-metal mirror was due for a polishing.

Steve Coe, observing with a 17.5-inch f/4.5 at 100x, notes: "Faint, small, somewhat elongated, brighter in the middle, looks like a globular."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "small and moderately faint galaxy at 80x. 140x: elongated SE-NW, 1'.2x0'.4, with moderately even concentration except for conspicuous stellar nucleus. Forms 1' triangle with 12th and 13.5-mag stars to the southeast."

SIMBAD: B=12.9, V=11.9, D=2.6'x1.0, PA=123, MT=[Sa], aka ESO 440-7, LEDA 36737.

HCNGC (1.03): V=11.1, B=12, D=1.7'x0.9', PA=123.

NGC 3904

About midway between Corvus and xi Hydrae lies the spiral NGC 3904.

60x: Pretty faint star with a halo. Not many field stars about. 120x, 150x: Approximately round glow, 0.5' across, much brighter in the middle to a small core. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Discovered in 1791 by William Herschel with an 18.7-inch f/13 speculum telescope. He called it "pB, S, R, vgmbM, almost resembling a nucleus."

John Herschel at the Cape recorded it as "pB, R, psmbM, 15 arcseconds."

It is a member of the NGC 3923 Group (the others are NGC 4105, NGC 3904, IC 764 & NGC 4106).

In Helwan Observatory Bulletins No 15 (1915) & No 22 (1921) it is described as "B, S, R, vmbM."

Steve Coe, observing with a 17.5-inch f/4.5 at 100x, notes: "Pretty bright, Pretty small, somewhat elongated, brighter in the middle

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "A moderately bright but intensely concentrated spot of high surface brightness at 80x. 140x: oval in PA 30, 1'.5x1', halo very faint. Strong sharp concentration to a very small, circular, core, and 12.5-mag stellar nucleus, which remains stellar at 195x."

A supernova erupted in this galaxy in 1971 (15.3v)

SIMBAD: B=12.0, V=11.0, D=3.0'x2.0, PA=8, MT=[E], aka ESO 440-13, LEDA 36918.

HCNGC (1.03): V=10.8, B=11.8, D=2.2'x1.7', PA=8.

NGC 3923

About midway between Corvus and xi Hydrae lies the spiral NGC 3923.

60x: Bright elongated glow, oriented NE-SW, positioned in line with three small stars. 120x, 150x: Bright central region (E 1:1.3) with elongated (E 1:3) halo. From sketch: small star on SSW tip. Overall, the galaxy measures 2.7' x 0.9', with a brighter central region 1.0' x 0.8'. Sketch shows nearby field stars. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Discovered in 1791 by William Herschel: "cB, pL, lE, gbM. The brightness takes up a large space of it."

John Herschel at the Cape called it "pB, E, mbM, very resolvable, 20 arcseconds, has a very small star S.p. involved", and "B, pL, lE, glbM, 80 arcseconds long, 50 arcseconds broad, resolvable."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is described as "very bright, elongated, nucleus, with bright, pretty small atmosphere elongated PA 45." And in Bulletin No 22 (1921) it is "very bright nucleus with atmosphere falling off in intensity like a globular nebula. The atmosphere extends about 3'x1' elongated in PA 50."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 49 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "B4: Extended objects: hazy spots, streaks or patches Very faint, easily missed."

Tom Lorenzin has it as "2'x1' extent; oblong with brighter center; almost stellar nucleus."

Steve Coe (17.5-inch f/4.5, 100x): "bright, elongated, pretty large, averted vision helps."

Magda Streicher logged it on 7 June 1997 with an 8-inch SCT as "Very small galaxy, faint, bright nucleus, hazy around. Soft light."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "Larger and brighter than NGC 3904 to the southwest, and more interesting @ 140x. Very large, very low surface brightness halo, 4'x3' elongated NE-SW. Core 1'.2x0'.8 in PA55. Halo reaches past 13th-mag star on major axis southwest, but not as far as similar-brightness star to the northeast also on axis. Core has a 14th mag star (?) on western edge; between here and stellar nucleus is a dark patch. The nucleus is very bright, evenly concentrated, over a bright core. At the northeastern end of the core is a substellar spot, giving the core a double nature or triple with a faint star on the west."

It is a member of the NGC 3923 Group.

SIMBAD: B=11.0, D=6.3'x4.4, PA=50, MT=[E...], aka Bennett 49, ESO 440-17, LEDA 37061.

HCNGC (1.03): V=9.6, B=10.6, D=2.9'x1.9', PA=50.

NGC 3936

About 2 north of NGC 3923 in the direction of the junction between Corvus, Crater and Hydra, lies this galaxy.

60x: Pretty faint but distinct slender scrape of light. Very much elongated SW-NE. Sketch. Bright star NNW (=TYC6674-01009-1, V=9.9). The south-western part of the galaxy seems thicker and brighter with averted vision. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Discovered in 1835 by John Herschel at the Cape: "vF, vmE, 2' long, 15 arcseconds broad, pos of extension = 59.3 degrees." (h 3367)

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 22 (1921) it is called "F, 3'x0.25', E 75deg; spiral seen edgewise; no nucleus."

Steve Coe (17.5-inch f/4.5 at 100x): "Faint, small, very elongated, somewhat brighter in the middle."

SIMBAD: B=12.8, D=4.0'x0.7, PA=63, MT=[Sc], aka ESO 504-20, LEDA 37178.

HCNGC (1.03): V=11.9, B=12.7, D=4.0'x0.8', PA=63.

NGC 4052

An easy star hop from Acrux (alpha Crucis) lies this open cluster. It makes a triangle with two bright stars (theta-1 and theta-2 Cru). Despite its easy-to-find position, I can't say I saw it in the 9x50 finder. However, with 60x (25mm ep), it is obvious.

Intriguingly, the dim stars are arranged in angular fashion, and seem to spell out a word, with each bundle of stars being a characters. What is this word?

Well, throughout my week-long observing session, I never got a chance to take a proper look at the cluster. Something always intervened: one evening, high wind. The second evening, it was too low above the observing shelter so that the 12-inch was cut down drastically in effective aperture, and the 25mm was simply too much magnification for the "reduced" mirror. It must be a sign. (D: 20090129/30)

The cluster can be picked up in 11x80 binoculars, which will show it as a dim grouping in a bright, busy, starfield. With averted vision it becomes a pretty large area richly strewn with faint stars, looking like an elongated, mottled piece of Milky Way.

Discovered in 1837 by John Herschel at the Cape: "Cluster VII class; loose and scattered, but pretty rich." (h 3373)

Robert Trumpler (Lick, 1930) gives the diameter as 10' and the class as 2 2 mE.

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "Moderately faint, moderately rich cluster, moderately well-separated from the field at 80x. 140x: 10' diameter, circular but flattened on southeastern side. 75 stars of 11th mag and fainter. String of six stars on southern side aligned SE-NW."

SIMBAD: V=8.8, D=9', MT=[32r], aka Cl Collinder 251, Cl VDBH 126, COCD 301.

NGC 4349

A short distance from Acrux (alpha Crucis) lies this astonishing cluster.

60x: All its members are of similar magnitude and are quite faint, spread out over a large area, with no overtly concentrated region. At a guess, some 30 stars comprise this grouping. The cluster is immediately obvious as a stellar grouping, and is evident in the 9x50 finder as a stellar glow. It bursts into life through the telescope (60x, 48' fov) but once you notice it and take it in as a dim, rich cluster, a surprising mental flip happens: the areas between and amongst the stars take over perceptually, and you see instead many criss-crossing and straggling lines of darkness (instead of chains & rows of stars). A challenging target to sketch. (D: 20090123/24.)

This cluster is quite remarkable in binoculars. There is an 8th mag star about 3 arcmin southeast of the cluster's edge. This small star, along with the faint cluster stars, make an extended glow to the northwest and looks very much like a little comet with a bright nucleus.

A 4-inch f/14.7 refractor shows it as a ghostly irregular round glow, best seen with averted vision at low power. Like a large patch of frosted starlight. At 83x, it is an extremely rich glow of very faint to extremely faint stars. Of these, the brighter members are in small groups, irregularly scattered about.

A 6-inch f/8.6 Newtonian shows this as a beautiful soft cluster 12 arcmin wide, composed of innumerable tiny stars in an irregular grouping. The cluster is clearly distinguished from the background. There is no evident concentration, the members being evenly spread out into a glow with no chains or spaces. Besides a brighter star on the southern edge, all members are equally dim. The grouping is more defined on the western edge.

The cluster was discovered by James Dunlop in 1826: "a pretty cluster of extremely small stars, resembling a pretty large faint nebula, about 6' or 7' diameter: the compression is very gradual to the centre; a pretty bright star is in the following side of the cluster, round figure."

Observed by John Herschel at the Cape. He recorded it during Sweep No. 432 as a "fine rich cluster which fills field." His second observation recorded it as "a large loose cluster of small stars 12..14th mag; irregularly round; not very rich; little compressed in the middle; diam. 10'." His final observation was recorded as "cluster class VI. Very large, very bright, A star about 8..9 mag taken but the brightest part of the cluster is about 4' N.p. Fills field; not much compressed in the middle; stars 12..13th mag; This cluster was found by Mr Maclear in this sweep made with him, not being aware at the time of its having been seen in Sweep 432." (h 3389)

E. J. Hartung writes: "In a fine field this beautiful cluster of fairly bright stars is about 20' across; it is open but rich, the stars in small groups, and makes a delicate object in a large field with a four-inch telescope."

Magda Streicher observed it on 18 April 1999 with an 8-inch SCT and 18mm eyepiece: "This is a rather large, spread-out, cluster of faint white stars. On the eastern edge there are a few bright stars arcing outward in a circle."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "Rich, moderately faint and fairly large cluster, 18' diameter, 150 stars @ 140x. Clumpy concentration within this circle, but no outliers on southwestern side. Small 1'.5 concentrated core near the center."

SIMBAD: B=8.0, V=7.4, D=5', MT=[22m], aka Dunlop 292, Cl Collinder 255, Cl VDBH 130, COCD 309.

HCNGC (1.03): V=7.4, D=15'.

NGC 5061

Just under 4 due south of 3rd-mag gamma Hydrae lies this comet-like galaxy.

60x, 120x: An obvious round glow, brighter in the middle. Sketch. A small star lies close (0.7-arcmin) ENE, while a bright orange star is further ESE (HD 115560, V=9.0, B-V=+0.54; 2.3-arcmin away). (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Discovered by the senior Herschel in 1786: "cB, R, psmbM." The junior Herschel saw it from Cape Town as "B, pS, R, psbM, 12 arcseconds, a star 9th mag follows 10.5 seconds." and as "vB, R, bM, has a star 10th mag 11 seconds following, 30 arcseconds south."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 15 (1915) it is: "very bright nucleus in pretty small, round, atmosphere."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 59 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "C2: Angularly small objects, almost stellar, easily missed in sweeping. Faint (seen only with difficulty)."

E. J. Hartung notes: "In a field sprinkled with stars is a bright symmetrical nebula about 1.5' across with a nuclear centre. 10.5cm shows this object plainly and also the nucleus; the small star 2.5' following is a close pair."

Steve Coe (17-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian): "Pretty bright, pretty small, round, very suddenly much brighter in the middle with an almost stellar nucleus at 150X.

Magda Streicher observed it on 14 May 1997 with an 8-inch SCT and 18mm eyepiece: "Small galaxy, relatively bright, symmetrical to round with a bright nucleus more or less in the middle. A beautiful small star prominent to the north east. A few stars trail away in a beautiful peppered starfield."

SIMBAD: B=11.4, V=10.4, D=4.0'x3.3', PA=117, MT=[E], aka Bennett 59, ESO 508-38, LEDA 46330.

HCNGC (1.03): V=10.3, B=11.3, D=2.6'x2.3'.

NGC 5078

Four and a bit degrees south of 3rd-mag gamma Hydrae.

120x: Small, pretty faint glow, growing slightly brighter to the middle, in a moderately busy star field. Elongated NW-SE (1:2). Bright orange star 9-arcmin east (HD 115890, V=7.8, B-V=+1.50). (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Companion IC 879 was not plotted on my charts, and I didn't notice it at the eyepiece. Shoulda couda woulda mada sketch.

Discovered in 1786 by William Herschel: "F, pS, E."

John Herschel at the Cape said: "pB, S, pmE, psbM; has a star 7-8th mag following."

Steve Coe (17-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian): "pB, elongated, small, growing a little brighter to the middle."

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "moderately bright lens @ 80x in field with NGC 5101 to the east. 140x: PA 135, 1'.5x0'.7, with very strong even concentration to a thin core and substellar nucleus. Halo seems less extensive on southwest-facing side, as though a dark lane there."

SIMBAD: B=11.5, D=13.8'x4.5, PA=148, MT=[S...], aka ESO 508-48, LEDA 46490.

HCNGC (1.03): V=11.1, B=12, D=6.0'x3.5', PA=148.

NGC 5101

Four and a bit degrees south of 3rd-mag gamma Hydrae.

47x: Pretty small, round glow, growing brighter to the centre. Makes a narrow right-angled triangle with two field stars (sketch); hypotenuse is 6 arcmin long. 120x: Not faint, brighter to the middle, elongated N-S (1:2.5), 1.0' x 0.4'. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

Discovered in 1786 by William Herschel: "pB, pL, iF, gbM."

John Herschel at the Cape: "vB, pmE, gmbM." and "B, R, pL, psmbM to a star."

Steve Coe (17-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian, 100x): "pB, pS, somewhat elongated, stellar core, bar structure with averted vision."

This galaxy appears on page 42 of "The Hubble Atlas of Galaxies" by Allan Sandage (1961). It is listed in the "Third Reference Catalogue of Bright Galaxies" as having an outer ring of 5.15 arcminute diameter.

Brian Skiff (6-inch refractor): "fairly bright oval @ 80x with 12th mag star on western side. Brighter than NGC 5078 to west, similar in size. 140x: seems elongated parallel to NGC 5078, though not so elongated. 1'.75x1'.25 with moderately even concentration to nonstellar center."

SIMBAD: B=11.5, V=10.5, D=5.6'x4.5', PA=124, MT=[SBr...], aka ESO 508-58, LEDA 46661.

HCNGC (1.03): V=10.5, B=11.4, D=5.5'x4.9', PA=130.

NGC 5236

This impressive galaxy lies in eastern Hydra, at the border with Centaurus. To find its general location, pick out the northernmost bright stars of the Centaur (iota and theta); the galaxy makes a 9 isosceles triangle northward with these two stars.

9x50 finder: Easy; even, round glow, pretty bright. 60x, 120x, 150x: A huge, moderately bright, non-symmetrical, glow with an anomalous small disk like but very bright nucleus. Odd! Its made up of soft, broad, curving loops of nebulosity, leaving dark spaces open stunning.

I mean, this thing just looks plain weird; like a planetary nebula in the centre of a large soft structured mass. Imagine adding the Ghost of Jupiter to a blurred version of the Tarantula Nebula, and you've got it.

There are two large loop-enclosed dark(er) oval areas, their major axes roughly ENE-WSW. Beyond the southern (larger, more pronounced) one is abrupt darkness. Beyond the northern oval is a definite extended area of unstructured nebulosity, particularly to the north & northeast (crudely triangular in shape).

One prominent curve of nebulosity runs eastward of the nucleus before turning south and then south-west, apparently. Another curved glow, shorter, starts roughly west of the nucleus, curving northward. (D: 20090129/30. Own star charts)

The galaxy is easily seen in 11x80 binoculars as a 10' across, round smudge. A row of three 9th mag stars lies to the southeast of the galaxy; they point northeast-southwest. With averted vision, the galaxy takes on a mottled appearance! The northwest side appears brighter, and there seems to be a small almost star-like point in the centre, with two other stars on the southeast edge of the galaxy.

Danie Cronje, observing with 10x50 binoculars, calls it "very faint just a circular glow. Can be seen directly, but no detail."

Discovered by Jesuit astronomer-priest Lacaille in 1751, during his stay in Cape Town, using a half-inch 8x refractor. He saw it as a "small, shapeless" nebula sucks to be you, Nick. It is the only galaxy in Lacaille's list.

In the Appendix to the 1912 'Scientific Papers of Sir William Herschel' this object is described as "1787, March 15. vB, a B. resolvable nucleus in the middle with faint branches about 5' or 6' long, E sp-nf. 1793 May 5. vB, a SBN with very extensive and vF nebulosity; it more than fills the field, it seems to be rather stronger from sp to nf. It may be ranked among the nebulous stars."

James Dunlop observed it from Paramatta, New South Wales: "185 Centauri is a very beautiful round nebula, with an exceedingly bright well-defined disk or nucleus, about 7 or 8 arcseconds diameter, surrounded by a luminous atmosphere or chevelure, about 6' diameter. The nebulous matter is rather a little brighter towards the edge of the planetary disk, but very slightly so. I can see several extremely minute points or stars in the chevelure, but I do not consider them as indications of its being resolvable, although I have no doubt it is composed of stars."

John Herschel, of course, observed & sketched it while in Cape Town. "This is Bode's 185 Centauri, observed by Lacaille, and remarked by him as nebulous. The reader will not fail to compare it with V.43 [NGC 4258], figured in my Northern catalogue, to which it bears a perfect analogy. They are the two finest specimens of their class that of large, faint, oval nebulae with small, bright, exceedingly condensed, oval nuclei. And it will not escape notice, on comparison of the figure, that in both cases the nucleus appears to contain within it a still smaller round kernel. The minute scrutiny of these objects with instruments of larger aperture and high magnifying powers, would be in the highest degree interesting and instructive. The situation of 185 Centauri, is however far too low for very satisfactory observation in these latitudes." In the records of his sweeps he recorded it as "very bright, very large, suddenly brighter in the middle to a centre equal to a star 9th mag, diam 8 arcseconds, of a resolvable character like a globular cluster, surrounded by an immensely large, extremely dilute almost equable light 7' or 8' diameter, somewhat oval, and passing with excessive suddenness into the central light." On the next sweep, he saw it as "faint, very large, elongated, very suddenly very much brighter in the middle to a sharp nucleus (ill seen, owing to clouds)." On the sweep after this, he recorded it as "185 Bode Centauri. Elongated; pos of axis = 55.1 , which is also that of the two stars involved in it = 10th mag." His final observation of the galaxy was recorded as "very large, very bright, much elongated, very suddenly very much brighter in the middle to a nucleus; diam in RA = 17.5 seconds = 3 arcseconds, 49 arcseconds in arc; a small star involved; pos with nucleus 80 approx. by a rough diagram made at the time."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 9 (1912) it is called "Remarkable; very bright, 10'x10', open spiral with many condensations." and in Bulletin No 21 (1920) it is "Remarkable; bright, 9'x9' spiral with very bright, unresolvable nucleus, and many almost stellar condensations."

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 63 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "B1: Extended objects: hazy spots, streaks or patches circular or slightly elliptical."

Gabriel Giust, of San Isidro, Argentina, submitted a report of his observation made on 30 April 1995 with an 8-inch Newtonian at 66x: "Little circular patch, easily visible. With low power, its aspect is of an unfocused star. It forms a 'T' with three equidistant and aligned stars (WWS-EEN)."

Magda Streicher observed it on 14 May 1997 with an 8-inch SCT (18mm ep): "Large, bright, delicate spiral galaxy with definite flimsy arm structure clearly visible. Bright nucleus, with hazy surroundings. The galaxy stands out beautifully towards the background, with a few stars in the field."

E. J. Hartung notes: "it is a large ellipse about 7' x 5' in pa 60 deg rising steadily to a very bright nucleus hardly 20 arcsec across . . I see evidence of concentric structure, apparent also with 20cm . . it is an easy object for small apertures."

Walter Scott Houston includes this galaxy in his Hydra Hysteria. He calls it a "delightful spiral for small telescopes. Its 8th mag disk is 10' in diameter." In 1972 he wrote: "Charles Messier, observing from Paris, regarded this 8th mag spiral as a difficult object, perhaps because it never climbed more than 13 degrees above his horizon. That he saw M83 at all should encourage users of large binoculars and small telescopes, especially those who live in more southerly latitudes. On a clear dark night, averted vision and patience will enable nearly all of the 8' diameter of M83 to be seen in a 10-inch or larger telescope. However, at low power one can sweep past this galaxy, since its bright core is easily mistaken for a star."

Steve Coe, observing with a 17.5-inch f/4.5 at 100x, notes: "Very bright, large, elongated, very bright in the middle easy in finder, three arm spiral structure visible at 165x."

Simon Tsang notes that "in binoculars this famous southern face-on spiral galaxy appeared diffuse and faint, rather like M33. I detected two arms in an 8-inch telescope and a hint of the fainter third arm with the 13-inch Dobsonian."

Brian Skiff (7x35 binoculars): "Fairly bright, large, seems asymmetrical with brightest part towards northwestern side (faint star on southern edge?)." (6-cm telescope): "Nice. Mottled with not-good concentration. Small 30" core with elongated inner halo in PA 70, 5'x2'. Halo extends to a faint 11th mag star. Overall diameter is 8'. (6-inch refractor): "Surprised, brighter than expected. Moderate sized core with large fainter halo. Bright and conspicuous at 50x as large, moderately low surface brightness glow, with brighter centre, set amongst several stars. Outermost reaches of halo extend @ 80x to a double star 6' SE of center. 165x: Bar weakly visible, extending NE-SW with 12th mag stars near each end. Core 45" across, irregularly round; sub-stellar nucleus has strong sharp concentrations relative to slight brightening of the core. At 80x halo is better seen: oval elongated NE-SW, nearly uniform overall brightness, but some weak structure occasionally visible." (10-inch reflector): "Large, very bright, elongated NE-SW. NE side has sharply defined edge. Core 1' across, circular. South of core is broad dark band curving E-W. Several stars involved. Evenly graduated in brightness." (12-inch reflector): "149x: 19' east is bright star. On west is faint *, on northwest is brightening near nucleus. Nucleus is less than 1' across. Faint spot on NE."

This galaxy is a member of the fairly nearby Centaurus group of galaxies, which includes NGC 4945, 5102, 5128, 5236 and NGC 5253. It is classified as a starburst galaxy.

Five supernovae erupted in this galaxy; 1923, 1950, 1957, 1968 & 1983.

SIMBAD: B=8.5, V=7.9, D=10'x10', MT=[SBc], aka Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, Lacaille I.6, Dunlop 628, Messier 83, Bennett 63, ESO 444-81, LEDA 48082.

HCNGC (1.03): V=7.5, B=8.2, D=12.8'x11.5', PA=44.

NGC 5128

Probably the easiest way to find the famous Centaurus A is to start from beta Centauri, the second Pointer. Move up along the Centaur's leg to epsilon Centauri, and then continue in that direction until you hit omega Centauri a hard-to-miss target in binoculars. Now, continue again in (roughly) the same direction for just 4.5 to arrive at your target. Enjoy.

The final delight for the evening was Centaurus A. This glorious object measures 7.4' x 6.2' and consists of two bright lobes separated by a dark lane. The dark lane runs NW-SE and is about 2.7' wide.

Both lobes are sharply cut off inside (creating the dark lane) while their bulging outer perimeters are hazy.

The southernmost lobe is the smaller (about 4.4' wide at the base) and is perhaps better defined on its outer reaches than the northern lobe (more sharply terminated).

The northern lobe fades off very gradually into the background, and tapers somewhat to the northwest.

Three stars can be seen inside the southern lobe. A single small star lies just inside the north-western end of the dark lane (towards the southern lobe).

A slim streamer of faint nebulosity runs centrally across the dark lane, starting at the single star. This streamer is wider at its north-western origin (extending towards the northern lobe). (D: 20090129/30.)

James Dunlop discovered this interesting and very peculiar galaxy in 1826 from Paramatta, New South Wales, and included it as No. 482 in his catalogue of 1827. Using a 9-inch f/12 telescope, he described it as "a very singular double nebula, about 2.5' long, and 1' broad, a little unequal: there is a pretty bright small star in the south extremity of the southernmost of the two, resembling a bright nucleus: the northern and rather smaller nebula is faint in the middle, and has the appearance of a condensation of the nebulous matter near each extremity. These two nebulae are completely distinct from each other, and no connection of the nebulous matters between them. There is a very minute star in the dark space between the preceding extremities of the nebula: they are extended in the parallel of the equator nearly." He drew a sketch of the object, and observed it 7 times.

John Herschel observed it from the Cape: "A most wonderful object; a nebula very bright; very large; little elongated, very gradually much brighter in the middle; of an elliptic figure, cut away in the middle by a perfectly definite straight cut 40 arcsec broad; pos = 120.3 ; dimensions of the nebula 5' x 4' The internal edges have a gleaming light like the moonlight touching the outline in a transparency." On his next sweep he observed it again, describing it as "Two nebulae, or two portions of one separated by a division or cut. The cut is broad and sharp. The two nebulae are very nearly alike. Perhaps the slit is larger towards the N.p. end, where there is a star between them. There is certainly a very feeble trace of nebula, an island as it were, running from this star between the sides of the slit. N.B. No 'moonlight effect' seen between the edges. Night very fine. Pos of the slit 120.3 The place taken is that of the star within the slit." His final observation recorded it as "A nebula consisting of two lateral portions, and no doubt of a small streak of nebula along the middle of the slit or interval between them, having a star at its extremity. Position of the slit 124.7 ; of the star, with another star near the nebula and south of it 332.3 ; others stars also laid down. A most superb calm night; objects admirably defined. Shown to a bystander (J.R.) who saw it as figured and described." Herschel carefully sketched the galaxy, and commented on it as "a very problematic object, and must be regarded at present to form a genus apart, since it evidently differs from mere 'double nebulae,' not only in the singular relation of its two halves to each other, (having each a well and an ill-defined side, their sharply terminated edges being turned towards each other and exactly parallel) but also by the intervention of the delicate nebulous streak intermediate between them and lying in exactly the same general direction. It may perhaps be considered that the nebulae V.24 [NGC 4565] and I.43 [NGC 4594] offer some analogy of structure to this; but of so it is a very remote one, the nebulae constituting these objects being in both instances very unequal in size and brightness, and being individually merely elongated nebulae of the ordinary type, which these are not. On the other hand we have, in the completely resolved cluster,[NGC 6451], an object which, removed to such a distance as to appear nebulous, would present a considerably approach to it in point of general aspect."

There has been much controversy since Herschel's musings above over the nature of this object. In 1849, Sir John Herschel wrote in his "Outlines of Astronomy" that it was "two semi-ovals of elliptically formed nebula appearing to be cut asunder and separated by a broad obscure band parallel to the larger axis of the nebula, in the midst of which a faint streak of light parallel to the sides of the cut appears." In 1918, H D Curtis of Lick Observatory classified it as an edge-on spiral galaxy with dark lanes. Burnham notes that in a Helwan Observatory publication of 1921 it is described as a "large patch of structureless and possibly gaseous nebulosity, cut in two by a wide belt of obscuring matter, through which appear several stars and wisps of nebulosity." Hubble, in 1922, classified it as a local nebulosity. In 1932, Shapley and Ames included it in their famous catalogue of galaxies as an irregular system. Burnham notes that the "dark band is approximately 1' wide where it crosses in front of the nucleus, widening to about 2' on the southeast side of the galaxy. On the northwest the band becomes weaker and less regular, breaking into a chaotic mass of bright and dark clouds. The course of the dark lane is from PA 135 to 315 ."

Solon Bailey (Harvard College Observatory, 1908) noted it as "nebula, peculiar, broken, five stars involved."

In Helwan Observatory Bulletin No 21 (1920) it is called "Most remarkable object; pretty bright, 7'x5', a large patch of structureless and possibly gaseous nebulosity, cut in two by a wide belt of absorbing matter, through which appear several stars and wisps of nebulosity." (Confirmed in Bulletin No 38 of 1935.)

Sidney van den Bergh (1961) notes that this galaxy could be a radio source. He remarks: "Dark patches and bright knots. Similar to NGC 1316 and NGC 1275?"

Jack Bennett (1969) listed it as No 60 in his ""Comet-like objects south of the celestial equator as observed with a 5-inch short-focus refractor x21" classifying it as "B1: Extended objects: hazy spots, streaks or patches circular or slightly elliptical."

E. J. Hartung describes it as a "bright round luminous haze about 5' across, bisected by a clean dark bar about 1' wide in PA 130 in which is a faint luminous streak coming in N.p. Many stars are in the field, one being immersed in the southern region of the nebula and one in the dark rift. Even a 3-inch shows this object plainly."

Walter Scott Houston writes: "Visually its bright 7th mag glow is some 10' in diameter with a wide belt of dark material dividing it in two slightly unequal halves. This belt shows well in a 4-inch telescope, and Ron Morales of Tucson, Arizona, has seen it with 7x35 binoculars." Houston also reports Morales' description as "very bright, large, round object, cut through the middle by a wide, dark lane."

Steve Coe, observing with a 17.5-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian, notes: "NGC 5128 is bright, large, round and has a bright middle at 100X. The dark band across this galaxy is easy at 135X. There are several stars superimposed across the face of this object.

Phil Harrington notes that it is "bright and large enough to be seen in 7x binoculars. When high in the sky the galaxy displays its dust lane well through giant glasses and small telescopes. Increasing to 10-inch or larger instruments, the lane begins to reveal irregularities along its fringes."

Magda Streicher observed it on 5 April 1997 with an 8-inch SCT and 18mm eyepiece. She wrote: "One of my old friends. An excellent elliptical galaxy relatively large with an uneven dark band separating it in two. A roundish haze structure with pinpoint stars in the starfield. In the one part two stars are visible, one a little brighter than the other one."

Mauritz Geyser imaged the galaxy on 18 March 2005 as part of his supernova search programme; he used an 8-inch f/5 SkyWatcher Newtonian and an SBIG ST-7E CCD camera.

Brian Skiff (7x35 binoculars): "Large, pretty bright diffuse glow flanked on E & W by 9th mag stars. Seems elongated ~N-S at least as long as separation of the stars to the east and west. Moderately-weak, even, concentration, occasional glimpses of ~E-W dark lane." (6-inch refractor): "Dark lane noted as notches. Some stars seen in the brighter regions. Dark lane obvious in PA 110, 1' thick. 6' diameter overall. Southern half much the larger and more concentrated with one star central and one on west just inside the dark lane. 150x: Northern half much more extensive. Bright star is double and eastern part of lane is wider than western. Conspicuous @ 50x as two unevenly bright glows with broad dark bifurcation and 11.5-mag star superposed on fainter southern component. 80x: In dark lane is 12.5-mag star, west of center. 165x: Southern portion seems brighter after all low-power views were dominated by embedded stars washing out the galaxy. One can imagine moderately even concentration were there no dark lane. Overall size 5'-6'." (6-inch refractor): "Wow! 50x/80x show the outermost halo surprisingly well: it is 25'x15' in PA 35, reaching two-thirds way to 10th mag star 17' SW and west to 10th mag star 8' away (it is the fainter and northern of two 9-10th mag stars there). Main body has familiar appearance: broad dark lane running SE-NW, becoming filled in going towards the NW. Slight hint of bright streak within northwestern part parallel to lane. 9th mag star off SSE side, 10th mag star in southwestern lobe, 11th mag star in lane near centre, 12th mag star at edge of 'core' on northeastern side. Strong broad or moderately even concentration ignoring dark lane. Southwestern lobe is more nearly a hemisphere, seems brighter than smaller NE lobe even with 10th mag star superposed. Nice moderately close pair 10' east. (10-inch reflector): "Bright. Dark lane easily visible at low power. 112x: dark lane flares at the ends being 90" wide. On northern perimeter two fairly bright stars are seen. The northern section is definitely brighter than southern. Roughly a round cross-section. [N&S flipped here?]"

SIMBAD: B=8.0, V=7.0, MT=[E], aka Centaurus A, Dunlop 482, Bennett 60, Arp 153, ESO 270-9, LEDA 46957.

HCNGC (1.03): B=6.6, V=7.6, D=18'x14', PA=35.

Saturn

Actually, the final-final object of the evening was Saturn.

The beautiful planet now has ridiculously stubby and thin! rings!

The ring shadow can be seen cutting across the northern hemisphere the rings appear about as thick as their shadow.

Both hemispheres have a single pale orange band crossing them about midway to the poles.

(D: 20090129/30)

Proxima Centauri

In reality, the totally final object was Proxima Centauri. We observed it in Ed's 10-inch f/5 "Lorenzo" with a 25mm eyepiece. Its a straight-forward star hop from alpha Centauri, using MSA 985. The little star's position can be clearly identified as there are no similar magnitude stars competing for attention in its indicated location. (D: 20090129/30)

Interestingly, that alpha Centauri was a double star was apparently discovered way back in December 1689 by a French comet hunter, Father Richaud, who was out observing a comet at Pondicherry, India.

The distant companion Proxima Centauri was discovered in 1915 by R.T.A. Innes, in South Africa.

The little star moves along at a speedy 3.81 arcseconds per year; at this rate, it will take some 500 years to move the equivalent of the Moon's diameter in the sky.

With V=11.1 it is readily visible in a small telescope, but you'll need a good map to hunt it down. This red dwarf star (just 10% of the Sun's mass) is red in colour (B-V=+1.83) but because its so faint, you probably won't notice the tinge.

Its listed in the Tycho catalogue as TYC 9010-04949-1; as a flare star it is known as V645 Cen. Its J2000 position is 14h29m47.59s, 6240'52.6".

Photo gallery

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