SJAA Ephemeris February 2003 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

Out there

The season of fleeting skies

Mark Wagner

NGC 2024 The Flame Nebula in Orion sketched by Peter Natscher 120x

NGC 2371 "butterfly" shaped planetary neb in Gemini sketched by Peter Natscher 309x


February is the heart of winter, so catch as catch can when it comes to observing. If you have a clear night, don't waste it! This month's objects are from right ascension 5:15 to 7:49. I've expanded the selections to include 3rd quarter and new moon weekend. I've also included comments from other local observers.

NGC 1907: Directly between Iota and Theta Aurigae is M38, a beautiful large and rich open cluster with many stars of similar magnitudes. NGC 1907 is a small yet dense open cluster in the same wide field view as the famous Messier. This view reminds many people of M35 and NGC 2158 in Gemini.

NGC 2158: Now compare NGC 2158, just SW of M35, a dimmer round OC with many stars. It is thought to be the same size as M35, but its great distance makes it small and dim by comparison.

NGC 2266: Robert Leyland: Nicer still is NGC 2266, easy to find near Epsilon GEM, a distinct OC with an nice arc of bright stars lead by the brightest in the group, over the fainter 60+ members of the cluster.

NGC 2371: This is a bi-lobed planetary, worth viewing with high magnification. Try a narrow band filter such as a UHC from in town.

NGC 2392: Bruce Jensen writes "PN, very bright and distinctive. The central star, the archetypal PN ring, and the outer fringed "hood" with radial striations were all evident and cleanly defined. Extraordinary."

NGC 2420: Jeff Blanchard observed "At 90x a pentagon of bright stars encircles the popcorn ball of nebulosity with some outliers extending 3-51 especially to the south. With increased power a few faint stars were resolved in the core with dark corridors winding through the nebulous region. Very interesting almost globular like."

NGC 2419: Intergalactic Wanderer — I've seen this from in San Jose with an 8" Dob. Amazing that this furthest of globular clusters is 300,000 light years distant.

NGC 2264: Steve Sergeant says this open cluster (The Christmas Tree Cluster) in Monoceros is aptly named. The brightest star is at the base of the trunk of the tree.

NGC 2286: Find this object. Listed as moderately rich with a large range in brightness. It is mag 7.5 and is compressed. It was not difficult to find, I used a 6x30 to sight in a wide group of fairly bright stars nearly halfway between Sirius and Xi Geminorum.

NGC 2301: Use mag 4.1 Delta and 18 Monocerotis to navigate, this unusual open cluster can be seen in a large finder. It was spectacular, with two distinct chains of stars at right angles, the brighter one running N/S, the dimmer more diffuse chain running perpendicular to the E and having a fairly dense core at the intersection.

NGC 2353: This OC has two quite bright stars in the group. The shape of the cluster is interesting, being a long, extended shape up from a wide-based triangle of stars, sweeping up with two branches of stars extending off in the same direction. There were few bright stars in the group, but the shape and number of dim stars was easy to detect.

NGC 2024: Flame Nebula — On a good night the definition of this dusty nebula is like looking at the jagged edge of a leaf and seeing somewhat of a saw tooth pattern all around. When you have good transparency, this object will show well.

NGC 2194: Jamie Dillon says 2194 is a gorgeous, a tight bright dense little cluster with nebulosity trailing over to a neighbor patch, some 20' away. Showed off its stuff best at 79x.

NGC 2362: Akkana Peck noted an interesting phenomenon through a friend's 14" Dob. The bright foreground star (2362 and tau CMa?) appeared to move in a different direction from the cluster stars when the telescope was jiggled. Try it!

NGC 2440: Steve Gottlieb viewed this bi-polar planetary at 380x. Compact, high surface brightness inner region is elongated NNW-SSE. Two bright knots comprise both ends and the surface brightness is irregular.

Winter skies are awesome, but fleeting. Many of my remaining Herschel targets are in this season, as weather can be so limiting. If you run out of winter objects to chase, catch me at one of the local dark sky observing sites on a lucky winter observing night. I have plenty of suggestions for you!


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