FUZZY SPOT, April 1998, Hydra

Hydra is the largest constellation in the sky, extending through almost 8 hours of right ascension, and covering about 1300 square degrees.  Although it covers such a large area, there aren’t that many bright stars, and I have a hard time finding any obvious shape.

There are only 5 Herschel 400 objects and one best of the NGC objects, and these span the full extreme of the constellation, so if you want to get all of these in one setting, plan on a long night.  In the spring time, this constellation provides some welcome relief from all the galaxy with a few globulars, planetaries, even some open clusters in the far western end.

I was asked to include some Messier object in my articles.  I think this is a great idea, it will allow those who are working the Messier list to have input at the deep sky meetings, and it reminds all of us to look at some of the best deep sky objects in the sky.  So this month and in future months, look forward to seeing some Messier object.

        NGC 2548 (08h13.8 -05 48) This is one of the Messier objects that managed to slip into the Herschel 400 list.  M-48 is considered an error in Messier’s original notes as there is no object at his specified location.  Later it was determined that NGC 2548 was the object he observed.  His notes apparently had an incorrect sign in his declination measurement from the reference star.  This is an open cluster which is very large, very bright, elongated more or less E/W, and is visible in binoculars.  At 35X, I counted about 95 stars, way too many to draw.  There is a real nice grouping of about 8 stars in the middle, several chains and a lot of pairs.  The center forms kind of an arch pointing to the W.

        NGC 2811 (09h16.3 -16 18) This galaxy is hard to find due to lack of guide stars.  At 100X it is somewhat bright, pretty small, and contains a stellar nucleus which especially shows up with averted vision.  It is elongated N/S with a star near to the W.

        NGC 3242 (10h24.8 -18 38) As opposed to NGC 2811, this planetary is very easy to find.  At 70X it is fairly big, fairly round, no details at any power, but a green/blue color was noted.  Neither averted vision nor the UHC filter did much to help bring out any detail, however, I did suspect a darker area in the middle.

        NGC 4590 (12h39.5 -26 45)  At 100X, this globular cluster, also known as M-68, is pretty bright, fairly big for a globular, and reveals 10 or so stars over some granular haze.  Going up to 140X, the granular core is good, bright, and round, and some outlying stars seem to stand out a little bit better.

        NGC 5236 (13h37.1 -29 52)  M-83 is an absolute jewel in the sky.  At 100X this galaxy is very very large, very bright.  It contains a very bright non-stellar nucleus, the halo is quite bright, much brighter than most galaxies.  A lot of mottling was noted with possible counter-clockwise spiral structure, but this is hard to tell.  An absolutely stunning galaxy, I would rate this as one of the best galaxies in the sky.

        NGC 5694 (14h39.6 -26 32) This is a globular cluster at the far east end of the constellation.  At 100X it is pretty small, fairly bright, with no stars resolved nor any granularity noted. There is a bright center, a faint halo, and 3 stars nearby.  At 170X some granularity is suspected, but there is still no resolution at all.  This globular is one of the furthest from us along with NGC 7006 in Delphinus and NGC 2419 in Lynx.

Herschel 400 Objects
2548, 2811, 3242, 3621, 5694
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects