FUZZY SPOT, December 1998, Auriga

Look north in the early Winter skies, and you’ll see a bright star.  This is Capella, the Goat Star, and is the nearest first magnitude star to the north celestial pole.  Look to the south-southwest from Capella for a steep triangle of stars, these are the Kids.  The asterism of the Goat and Kids form part of the great Winter Milky Way constellation Auriga, the Charioteer.  This constellation contains many nice open clusters and some pretty good nebulae.  The showpiece is M-37, one of the richest open clusters in the skies.  So pull out your scope and start rambling through Auriga.

        NGC 1664 (04h51.1 +43 42) On the Perseus/Auriga border, this open cluster is pretty large, somewhat bright, somewhat poor, and somewhat loose.  There are a few strings of stars in this cluster, and a bright star on the ESE.  Discounting the bright star, there are 2 levels of stars with some possible haze in the background.  I counted about 40 stars with most of stars grouped in 3’s and 4’s.  This cluster is so loose it’s hard to tell where the edge is.

        NGC 1857 (05h20.2 +39 21) This cluster is dominated by a bright yellow central star which is a close double.  The rest of it is somewhat small and pretty faint except for a couple of stars.  I saw 4 levels of stars with some possible haziness.  Using averted vision, I counted 38 stars.  Just to the N of the cluster is a nice triangle of stars.  The grouping of 1857 and the stars to the N form cluster Cz-20.

        NGC 1907 (05h28.0 +35 19) This is the companion cluster to M-38.  It is somewhat bright, somewhat small, somewhat rich, and very condensed.  At 140X, I saw about 30 stars in 3 levels over some haze.  There are 2 bright stars to the S which are probably not part of the cluster.

        NGC 1912 (05h28.7 +35 50) M-38 is the first of the three Messier objects we will look at in Auriga.  At 70X, it is somewhat large, pretty bright, rich, and somewhat condensed.  There is a single star in the middle, then a dark area, then a good scattering of stars with a real nice string of stars to the N.  Outside of this concentrated area is a looser scattering of stars, almost like a tight cluster within a larger loose cluster.  There are 4 or 5 levels of stars with 85 stars counted in the concentrated part, and about 175 stars if you include the loose outer part.  The stars roughly form a “K” with the central star at the center of the K.  Take your time to analyze this cluster, there is so much to see.

        NGC 1931 (05h31.4 +34 15) This nebula is pretty small, somewhat bright, and possibly elongated E/W.  Using averted vision helps bring it out a little, but there is no response to the UHC filter.  Look at the central star, it is a nice close triple star.

        NGC 1960 (05h36.1 +34 08) This is the second Messier cluster in Auriga, M-36.  It is very large, very bright, pretty rich, but not very condensed.  I saw 3 levels of stars, with a real nice double in the middle and with some stars showing some red and blue color.  I counted about  55 stars.  It is a nice bright cluster with some interesting strings, although not one of the richer Messier clusters.

        NGC 2099 (05h52.4 +32 33) The last Messier cluster in Auriga, M-37, is one of the greatest clusters in the sky.  At 70X, it is very large, pretty bright, very condensed, and very rich.  The stars form a triangle pointing E, with dark areas along the edge of the triangle, then more stars.  The dark areas form an “A”.  I counted about 120 stars in 3 levels, including a bright yellow star in center.  Using averted vision, there are probably around 200 stars.  This is a real nice cluster whether looking at it from in town, at a fair site, or from a real dark site.

        NGC 2126 (06h03.0 +49 54) Getting back to Herschel 400 objects, this cluster, located SW of a bright star, is somewhat big, somewhat faint, pretty poor, and loose.  I saw about 25 stars in 3 levels, not including the bright star.

        NGC 2281 (06h49.3 +41 04) The last cluster of the month is very bright, somewhat large, somewhat poor, but what is there is fairly condensed.  The central section contains 4 real bright stars with 2 of these having faint companions, and several strings of stars leading away from this central section.  There are 3 levels of stars, and I counted 37 stars, 28 of these in central concentration.  This is a nice cluster, out away from Milky Way so the background stars don’t swamp it out.

Herschel 400 Objects
1664, 1857, 1907, 1931, 2126, 2281
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects
1907, 1931