FUZZY SPOT, April 1999, Leo
The great constellation of Leo is a marker of Spring, and therefore galaxies. The head of Leo with the bright Regulas and the backwards question-mark shape of the Sickle is unmistakable. Though not as dense in galaxies as Virgo or Coma Berenecies, there are many fine specimens here, from the faint and elusive Leo-I to the beautiful triangle of M65, M66, and NGC 3628. This is a constellation with items available for all telescopes, so let's jump right in.
NGC 2903 (09h32.2 +21 29) This large face on spiral in Leo can compete with many of the Messier objects. I saw it as very bright, elongated, with a bright middle and a possible nucleus. Some mottling was seen and a possible clockwise spiral structure was noted. Using the UHC filter helps bring out the mottling.
NGC 2964 (09h42.9 +31 51) This galaxy is a little faint, somewhat small, and elongated about 2.5:1 E/W. It slowly brightens up to the middle with a stellar nucleus which is best seen with averted vision. Other than this, I saw no other detail. Nearby is NGC 2968 which is pretty small, pretty faint, and possibly contains a stellar nucleus. The other nearby galaxy, NGC 2970 was suspected, but extremely uncertain.
NGC 3226/3227 (10h23.4 +19 53) This is a nice set of possibly interacting galaxies, the best views were at about 70X. 3227 is the brighter of the two, and contains an almost stellar nucleus which comes and goes. The galaxies are elongated, but it is hard to tell with them being together, the halos seem to fuse. It almost looks like 1 long galaxy with 2 nuclei.
NGC 3351 (10h44.0 +11 42) M-95 was seen as somewhat bright, fairly large, round, and with a much brighter middle and a non-stellar nucleus. I suspected some swirling around the middle with averted vision. Also noted were some nice star patterns around the galaxy.
NGC 3368 (10h46.8 +11 49) M-96 which is very near to M-95 was seen as very bright, pretty large, much brighter in the middle, with a non-stellar nucleus. The galaxy is elongated NNW/SSE, and the halo drops off suddenly to the WSW, perhaps this is a dark lane. The nucleus appears to be on the NNW side. This is a nice good bright galaxy and easy to locate.
NGC 3593 (11h14.6 +12 49) Here is a nice edge on galaxy which is pretty bright, somewhat large, and very elongated. There is a bright middle and a stellar nucleus. The halo is somewhat bright, using averted vision makes it grow quite a bit.
NGC 3623 (11h18.9 +13 05) M-65 is somewhat bright, pretty big, a little brighter in the middle, and contains a non-stellar nucleus. The galaxy is very elongated NNW/SSE, but the core is elongated more to the NW/SE. On the SW is a star and, on the NE, is a slightly fainter star, neither of which are involved with the halo. Using averted vision makes it more elongated and helps make nucleus come out. To the N is a bright star that is best kept out of the field of view. Of the pair of Messier galaxies, (M-65 and M-66), I like this one the best.
NGC 3627 (11h20.2 +12 59) M-66 is pretty big, very bright, very elongated NW/SE, somewhat brighter middle, and contains a possible non-stellar nucleus. The halo is very bright, using averted vision helps bring out elongation. There is a nice pattern of stars to the W, the closest doesn't quite make it to the halo.
NGC 3628 (11h20.3 +13 36) This galaxy is near to M-65 and M-66, and the group makes a nice low power field. I saw it as pretty bright, pretty big, and very very elongated. There is a possible dust lane on the S, and the galaxy is somewhat mottled. Increasing power to 140X fills the field of view with the galaxy. There is a definite bright center, using averted vision makes the brighter middle show up better.
NGC 3681/ 3684/ 3686/ 3691 (11h27.7 +17 13 for NGC 3686) This grouping of 4 galaxies caught my eye from the first time I saw them in SkyAtlas 2000. There are 3 galaxies in a row, -81, -84, and -86, with -91 to the E. At 70X, the 3 in a row are very obvious. Of the 3, -86 is the brightest, -81 is probably the dimmest. -91 is visible, although it is pretty faint. Lowering the power to 35X provided a very nice low power field with the 3 galaxies showing up very well, -91 barely visible, and about 20 stars in the area.
NGC 3912 (11h50.1 +26 29) I considered this galaxy as one of the most difficult Herschel 400 objects. I saw it as pretty small and very faint, almost needing averted vision to see it. There is a possible elongation 2:1 N/S, other than this, there was no detail seen, the object was barely there.
Leo I/IC 591 (10h08.4 +12 18) I have searched for Leo I many times, and finally saw it in the 20" scope. The main trick is to keep Regulas out of the field. Both of these objects of N of Regulas. IC 591 is NNW of Regulas and is pretty small, little faint, elongated 2:1 N/S. Seen to the E of 591 was a very gradual brightening of the background, this is Leo I. It is enclosed by star groups to the ENE and SE. It was seen with direct vision, but moving the scope really helped. At 100X, it fills about 1/3 of the field. The only detail I noted was that it is elongated E/W. This observation was from Buckeye Hills on a night I rated 5/10.
Herschel 400 Objects
2903, 2964, 3190, 3193, 3226, 3227, 3377, 3379, 3384, 3412, 3489, 3521, 3593, 3607, 3608, 3626, 3628, 3640, 3655, 3686, 3810, 3900, 3912
SAC's 110 Best of the NGC Objects
2903, 3384, 3521, 3607, 3628