FUZZY SPOT, February 1997, Gemini
Gemini is one of those constellations that is easy to learn, the two lead stars (Pollux and Caster) with the trail of stars that dangle down west from each star. Also Pollux is one of the stars of the winter hexagon (the others are Capella, Aldebaron, Rigel, Sirius, and Procyon). M-35 is the show piece of the constellation and is visible to the naked eye from a fairly dark site.
All of the observations in this installment were taken at the Sun Valley Parkway (White Tanks West) site in the 10'' f/4.5 scope on a night I rated 5 out of 10 for both seeing and transparency.
NGC 2129 (06 01.0 +23 18) This open cluster is a nice tight knot of stars at 70X with two pretty bright stars. I counted about 20 stars with 4 levels of brightness. On the east side is a nice double star. In the center is a bright star that I saw as yellow, all the other stars looked pretty much white.
NGC 2158 (06 07.5 +24 06) This open cluster is dwarfed in size by M-35 next door. This is a very distant and rich cluster and requires high power to resolve it. At 240X I saw about 18 stars over much haze with one very bright star at the east side. The overall shape of the cluster is triangular, pointing more or less to the south. After trying different powers, I decided that 170X was the best for that night, giving the best compromise between resolving stars and having the haze fade into the background.
NGC 2168 (06 08.9 +24 20) It's hard to discuss Gemini without talking about open cluster M-35. This is a bright enough object to be seen naked eye as a fuzzy spot in the sky. A very large object that, unlike NGC 2158, is best at low power. Using 35X, I estimated about 100 stars with a very nice arc of 10 stars across the middle and 4 levels of stars in this cluster. There were so many stars that I just drew the brightest ones, not wanting to spend the entire night on this one object. I have yet to see a picture that does justice to this object, this one just seems to show more depth and detail than the pictures show. This is also one of those objects that can really be appreciated in binoculars.
NGC 2266 (06 43.2 +26 58) This open cluster is roughly triangular with a bright star at the apex on the southwest side. The object is pretty bright and pretty small with 18 stars counted over a very granular haze with the stars just on the threshold of resolution. I am looking forward to observing this object in better conditions and see how much of that haze resolves.
NGC 2371 and NGC 2372 (07 25.6 +29 29) This planetary nebula contains two very bright spots with an NGC designation assigned to each spot. At 170X I saw this a very bright, pretty small, and very elongated NE/SW with the SW spot as the brighter one. I didn't see color at any power, and using the UHC filter made the object brighter but didn't bring out any more detail. To me, I envision this object as a donut cut in half with the two bright spots being the cut ends of the donut.
NGC 2392 (07 29.2 +20 55) This planetary nebula is commonly known as the Eskimo nebula. At 70x, this is a small object (although large for a planetary), pretty bright with a star to the W which is a little brighter, much brighter in the middle with the central star obvious. Both averted vision and the UHC filter makes it grow quite a bit. I noticed a slight blue color to it. At 170x, I saw a bright center, a dark ring surrounding the middle, then a bright ring around that. In Burnham's Celestial Handbook (by Robert Burnham Jr), he states ``To the author of this book, the whole nebula irresistibly suggests the classic and unforgettable features of W.C. Fields.'' Looking at the pictures in his book, I have to agree with him.
IC 443 (06 16.9 +22 47) This filamentary nebula next to Eta Geminorum is probably a supernova remnant according to Robert Burnham Jr. I made a casual attempt to observe this object at the White Tanks West sight, but was unsuccessful. I couldn't find any observation notes in any references I have except the NGC reference which is very faint, very large, curved arc 25' x 5'. The pictures I have seen of this object remind me of the Veil nebula, so perhaps with the right condition and right equipment, this could turn out to be a nice visual object.
Castor (07 34.6 +31 53) is a multiple star included in the ``Best
Multiple Stars for the Saguaro Astronomy Club.'' At 240X
from my back yard, I saw an equal and close white/white pair
oriented NE/SW. A faint white star was noticed SE of the
main pair. According to Burnham, each star is a
spectroscopic binary, making this a 6 star system!
Herschel 400 Objects
2129, 2158, 2266, 2304, 2355, 2371, 2372, 2392, 2395, 2420
SAC's 110 Best of the NGC Objects