And so the seasons have changed... The sky is getting dark much earlier... There's a hint of cold in the air... The summer constellations are beginning to set in the west... And I want you to go to EXTREMES!
So, do you want to call it a night? Or do you want to play around some more?? Good!! I like an adventuresome spirit! Now let's go get the night...
Are you ready to rock and roll?
(Then let's go prowl around in my study fields... Cephus and Lacerta.)
No. I hadn't lost it when I've told you of the time I've spent studying the "arc" of the Milky Way. This, too, has been part of the study... Fine tuning myself on the galactic equator. And this is how you will find these objects... by following it!
Into Cephus... to find the open cluster NGC7235. It is somewhat irregular, comprised of a couple of dozen stars that are easily perceivable. Their odd formations resemble a "ball and chain" accompanied by a "tooth"! Weird? Sure! (But you want me to be descriptive, nu?) Next is the NGC7261... This one is roughly twice the apparent size of the last one, containing about the same amount of stars. But this one's conspicuous members resemble the constellation of Leo! Now on to NGC7510... Oh yeah! A much tighter open with many more stars!! Very resolvable, the 7510 is basically made up of two chains of stars... one bright and one dim. Sort of a ( } look to it... reminds me of a diaper pin! Very sweet... It contains many doubles with two triples in the center.
(Now, I hate it that my notes have been partially destroyed for Cephus... and I recovered what I could. The unfortunate part is my directions on how to get to these targets is gone. I do it now with a practiced ease... just follow that galactic equator line, and I promise you'll find them!)
Move west now through the brighter stars of Cephus... to an area just south/west of Eta Cephei. In the finder you will see a tiny "double"... Now, you're on to it!! This is open cluster NGC6939... a rather compact area that will remind you a great deal of the M11! This one is fairly large, and is it EVER full of stars! (what a grrrreat tease this one is!) By pulling back just a bit, you'll discover galaxy NGC6946 to be right in the area. This one is small... and for the most part appears to be circular in structure with a bright nucleas. On nights with exceptional seeing conditions, I can just make out one trailing arm that pulls away, giving it a spiral look. It is a little beauty!
Ready to ride the "lightning bolt" of Lacerta?!
Lacerta is a bit more tough in the finder. Near the border of Cygnus is a line of three stars brought to a point > with three even smaller ones... at the apex is a triple... between the triple and the smaller portion of the chain is NGC7209. A very nice open cluster. The stars all seem to resolve themselves well... with the brighter members forming a T, with zig-zags of fainter stars nearby! Now let's hop in the direction of the galactic equator again... In the finder you will see a cofiguration similar to Auriga, and it is in this area you will find the NGC7243. This open cluster is roughly the same size as the last, but the stars all resolve easily here. Two giant blues capture the attention, along with a soft chain of yellows. Hey! There's even some red ones here too!! If you like color, this is the cluster for you!
Psi Capricornius is the anchor star to hunt out a faint galaxy. In the finderscope, find Psi and hop two stars east... and when you hop again, it will put you in the neighborhood of NGC6907. This is a moderately bright, fine spiral galaxy that reveals its' "S" shape very well under the right conditions.
Return to Psi and head west for Zeta... continue southwest to 41 Capricorni and pick up a small globular! The M30 might be tiny, but it is very beautiful. Set in the "hook" of a question mark shaped asterism, the M30 resolves quite well a moderate magnification. It has an unpenatrable core region, but the outlying area simply explodes into tiny stars... with a host of colorful doubles and triples to delight the eye! Of course, you simply cannot wander through Capricornius without a visit to Neptune, whose blue body lies just southwest of Upsilon Capricorni () and our greenish companion, Uranus who sits just a bit above Delta and Gamma. Good work! Now let's rock on...
Aquarius, you're up next... and what a fine study you have been too! (I haven't had this much fun since Virgo!) So, let's grab that big scope and "Do it to it, Pruitt!" The NGC7293, "Helix" nebula is the first stop. The Helix is quite lovely, reminiscient of the M57, but much larger! Its' nebular signature more closely resembles a ( ) rather than a O. A double sets neatly on the edge of the structure, while several bright stars are contained within it. Averted vision will definately bring out an interior star in this one! ;)
From the Helix, move west past a field double for the NGC7184. A wonderfully structured spiral galaxy with a bright circle at its' core! Keep bumping east to pick up NGC7492... this is a small, faint globular cluster which offers no resolution, but is a pleasing catch!
Continue east to Omega Auquarii... and from here, jump north for the NGC7723. This spiral galaxy is faint, but shows an evenly lighted surface, slightly "flattened"... with very little frontier. (Yeah, I know they're not amazing... but I just like hunting them down!! ;) Continue north to find the NGC7727... also a spiral galaxy. This one appears very even, with a hint of a central core and a delightful indication of faint arms curling off into space!
The triple Psi Auquarii group is next... and south of Chi is the NGC7606. This is a fairly bright spiral galaxy, with a decent core structure... but it also appears "flattened" looking to me!
Now, the going gets tough here... but you and I, we're "tough", aren't we? So let's get going!!
Return to the Helix Nebula, the sweep dead east to find NGC7392. This one is a faint, but excellently formed spiral galaxy. It has a great core region... sports a "finger" of light, and has a trailing outer arm! Very nice.. and worth the hunt!
North of the Helix is 53 Aquarii, our stepping stone for the next target. Moving west toward Delta Capricornii, approximately one third of the way is spiral galaxy NGC7218. This one is most unusual, because its' center structure appears "lumpy"... almost like a cluster of grapes! Back again to the Helix, (tired of looking at it yet?) and cruise southeast to capture NGC7377... an "even" eliptical galaxy of average brightness. Back to the Helix, (yes...again!) and drop south toward Epsilon Piscis Austrius. A little more than a degree northwest of that brings you to NGC7314. This one is detectable with the smaller scope, but it's spiral "attitude" walks right out with the big one! A nice, bright nucleas... and hints at dark dust lanes within the galaxy proper make this one quite a worthy study!
Of course, I'm not letting you leave Aquarius without looking in on the NGC7009, "Saturn" nebula. This blue baby is lots of fun, if given half a chance! Picture Saturn out of focus... and paint it blue. With concentration, the edges just tweak out away from the general form during a moment of clarity. And, of course, the triangle of stars designated as M73... (whoopee) and the very open, barely resolvable structure of the globular M72. It's outer members are speckled around the edges, but a minimum of resolution requires averted vision.
Not so with the next study... M2 is superb. Its' dense, dense central core is very bright compared to the other objects we've just looked at! At mid-level magnification (17mm) the stars absolutely "spray" forth from the edges! A glorious profusion of pinpoints of stellar lights!! Thanks, Aquarius! It's been reaL...
The last stop in the current study field (for now, eh? ;) is a constellation best viewed when it reaches due south... Piscis Astrinus. But, for early season viewers, it is worth the wait!
Head now toward Formalhaut... then slide west to capture NGC7361. This one is also and edge-on spiral, aligned from the north to south... evenly lighted and with no real core area. (But I LIKE it!)
Now, draw a mental line (you've always known i was a "mental case", haven't you?) between heta and the double Mu, and Eta... At just east of the center of this "triangle" is the NGC7172. Beautiful! And I do mean BEAUTIFUL! Of average brightness, the NGC7172 is a splendid edge-on with a prominent dark dust lane dissecting it... the best part is that it is also part of a "love triangle" of galaxies with the two faint scratches of light... the NGC7176 and the NGC7174! A superb study field... Made all the better by having YOU with me! ;)
So, you think you're up to a wild ride? Then grab onto this mane and let's take a walk through Pegasus...
First stop is Eta... then move toward the Lacerta border. (Yee Haa!) First stop... NGC7331. This nice looking spiral galaxy has a bright core and a soft form, supported by a defined dark dust lane.. On good dark sky nights, it is possible to make out one soft, swooping arm! But hey... there's company here! NGC7335 and NGC7337 are in this too... they are tiny spirals, not much more than a fuzzy ball of light. But the NGC7340, wants to come out to play too... as a diminuative eliptical!
Now, let's hop back to Eta and head east. (Howdy, Beta!) and slide toward the north for NGC7457... Sure, it's tough, but it's one more faint eliptical to target practice on! (So, feeling frisky yet? Then let's get down... ;)
To the really "good stuff"! Just touch the scope south. Let's get one of the best groups in the sky... Stephan's Quintet! The largest member of this group is the NGC7320, a beautiful face-on spiral which gives one the appearance of a concentrated galactic center, cupped by a halo of light, and embedded with the brightning of thousands of stars! The other members of the exclusive/elusive group are eliptical galaxies NGC7317, and NGC7318A... and the ever-so-slightly differing forms of spirals NGC7318B and NGC7319. When viewed, these are not much more than a faint group... but this is one challenge you won't regret!
Now, let's ride on back toward Eta again... and head west toward Pi. South of Pi is the average surface of the NGC7217. This spiral galaxy shows density toward the core region, but the mass of the galaxy is well distributed. During excellent seeing conditions, a hint of an outward arm opposite the bright field star is possible! Now jump back to Eta, and let's shake it on down through the finder that resembles a partial Lyra. Omicron... Mu and stop! Lambda. Fade to the west and latch onto NGC7332. A small, shy eliptical who appears to be hanging out with another scratch of light!?! (Oh, heck yes!! While researching my field notes for this page, I found out there really IS another galaxy there!! The NGC7339! All right!! ;)
You ready to ride this horse on over toward Alpha? (Well... all right. ;) Touch the scope west from here to capture NGC7448. Just another average brightness spiral, but one with a soft, appealing core. Now, hold onto them reins... 'cause we're going back to Alpha and continue south just a couple of degrees. Howdy, NGC7479! (If this one doesn't get your blood to pumping... nothing will!) The NGC7479 is a classic "S" shaped spiral, with one arm curved gently above its' head like a ballet dancer... and the other tucked demurely behind. It you only bother with one in the EXTREME group... Do this one, eh? ;)
One last hop now... and this time toward Gamma. In the northwest is our final galaxy in the Pegasus field. The NGC7814... (smilin', yet?) Because this is a perfect example of and edge-on! Although not as bright or as large as the "Sombrero" (M104), the NGC7814 contains a dark, central dust lane that you just can't miss!!
OK, so who here CAN'T find the M31? Huh? It's incredible, impenetrable nucleas simply screams out that it can be resolved. (and i can't wait to point the observatory scope at it!! ;) Even with my least amount of magnification, I cannot fit it into the entire field of view in the 12.5. So, when I can keep from drooling, I study it one section at a time. One of the most remarkable discoveries I ran across was in the southern tip. Damn impressive, the star cloud NGC206 actually bears its' own designation! Wonderful study area...
We already know of the companion galaxies, the M32 and the M110 (NGC205), these elipiticals that pale in the face of the mighty M31. But there ARE two more... (way to go, Jeff!) Because as I edge the scope toward Cassiopeia, the NGC185 and NGC147 turn up as a same field pair of faint elipticals! And what a team they all make...
Think that's enough? (Nah... I'm not letting YOU off that easy! ;) Now, find Omicron and Lamda and form a right angle to the east.... at the corner of this "L" is the NGC7640. A nice "scratch" of light that says, Take me edge-on!" So, let's hop again... this time toward Lambda... Because here you will find the easy NGC7662. This blue/green planetary has so far only shown me a smokey looking center, and an occasional detection of a central star that is more of a tease than a reality! (hey.. i wanna' be able to hold it direct/averted... not bopping around!)
Andromeda.... 'nuff said.
First stop.... grab a piece of Pi and hop west for the M76! Talk about shapes of a much repeated target, for the M76 bears a strong resemblance to the M27!! 8-D I was shocked (and pleased) when I came across it! (Hey! Two "dumbbells" share the sky!!)
The next step has been a personal challenge for me for the last two seasons. (and YOU know it, too... don't you? ;) We're talkin' galaxy cluster extraordinaire here... So, head off toward Algol and go roughly 2 degrees east and breathe north. Oh, my... The brightest member of this group is NGC1275, a nice, round eliptical. And joined by a host of others!! The NGC1270 is playing the field... North of 1275, the double galaxy NGC1278 and NGC1277 are in the house... west/Southwest of 1275 is NGC1272... and north is NGC1273 and NGC1274!! And still they don't stop! During evenings of exceptional clarity, I can make out as many as ten of the tiny players... but I haven't gotten good enough to name them all yet!! (keep going, huh?)
Think you can hang with me through one more study area? Then set the mark between Algol and the Plieades and snatch open cluster NGC1342 right out of the sky. It is a nice, scattered group of diamond hard stars... and a fitting crown to the head of Perseus!Damn... that was fun! ;)
And you know this isn't all the wonderful things I'm going to challenge you with this Fall! There's plenty more to be found...)
So come with me into the backyard... tonight! For as I learn... so shall I teach!! (or just drive YOU crazy, whichever comes first...)
And am I ever looking forward to both learning from and teaching YOU!! ;)