FUZZY SPOT,  December 2001, Fornax

With the exception of Orion and Ursa Major, I've covered constellations this year that have few or no bright deep sky objects.  This month's constellation, Fornax, is no exception.  With one planetary nebula and a plethora of faint galaxies, there isn't too much for a small telescope user. Don't let this discourage you, as these faint fuzzies do a good job on honing your observing skills, and searching out such objects will help you see more detail in the showpieces.

Fornax was originally named Fornax Chemica, the Chemical Furnace, by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1752.  He dedicated his new constellation to the famous French chemist Antoine Laurant Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry.

I only have three written observations from Fornax, plus two from memory.  So I've added some from The Night Sky Observer's Guide by George Robert Kepple and Glen W. Sanner, a guide I strongly recommend getting (this is referred to as the Observers Guide in the text below).

        The Fornax System (02h39.7 -34 17)  This galaxy is a dwarf galaxy and a member of our local galaxy group.  Although it has a large overall magnitude (8.12), it is spread over an area of 10'x12', making it very difficult to detect.  I have searched many times for this galaxy in both my 10" and my 20" scope to no avail.  On the other hand, Brian Workman has been able to detect it in his 6" scope.  Within the galaxy are 5 visible globular cluster (none of which I've search for), with NGC 1049 being the brightest.  I will continue to search for this elusive galaxy and its globular clusters.

        NGC 1097 (02h46.5 -30 17)  From the Observers Guide, "12/14 inch scopes- 125x:  In medium-size telescopes no spiral structure, only the galaxy's bright 4.5' x 1.5' NW-SE bar, can be seen.  At the center of the bar is a small oval core.  NGC 1097A lies 4' north."

        NGC 1360 (03h33.3 -25 51)  In the 10" scope, this planetary nebula was seen as very large, pretty bright, and containing a very bright central star, which I believe is the true central star.  The nebula is elongated 2:1 NE/SW.  Using the UHC filter really brings this elongation out.  The nebula brightens slightly towards middle.  A real nice large planetary.

        NGC 1365 (03h33.7 -36 08)  This galaxy lies near the Fornax I Galaxy Cluster, and is believed to be a foreground galaxy.  In the 20" scope, it is very large, somewhat bright, contains a very bright middle with much mottling.  The bar is fainter and is elongated 3:1 ENE/WSW.  The spiral arms are obvious, especially the W arm.  Very Very nice!!

        NGC 1398 (03h38.9 -26 20)  This galaxy was seen in the 10" scope as somewhat large, pretty bright, very much brighter middle, containing a non-stellar nucleus and a faint halo that is round.  Using averted vision doesn’t help much.

        NGC 1406 (03h39.5 -31 18)  From the Observers Guide, "12/14 inch Scopes - 125x:  NGC 1406, 6.5' east of a 9th magnitude star, is a nice but faint edge-on galaxy elongated 3' x 0.5' NNE-SSW, its bright center fading to tapered ends."

        The Fornax Galaxy Cluster is a fantastic group of galaxies.  This is the type of object (or objects) that really requires a good deal of time to observe, which is why I've never taken any notes or drawings of it.  Short views of this area totally overwhelms me, I remember seeing 5 or so galaxies in the 10" scope and at least 15 in the 20" scope.  Burnham's Celestial Handbook, by Robert Burnham Jr, lists 18 bright galaxies in this cluster.

Herschel 400 Objects
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects