FUZZY SPOT,  February 2000, Cancer

We've looked at a couple of zodiacal constellations in the past months, lets continue this month with Cancer, the Crab.  Cancer is one of the less prominent constellations in the sky and is probably best spotted by looking for the hazy naked eye spot which is the Beehive Cluster, or M-44.  This cluster has been know since ancient times.  Aratus and Pliny both stated that invisibility of this object in otherwise clear skies was considered to forecast the approach of a violent storm.  Hipparchus in 130 B.C. referred to it as the "Little Cloud", and Aratus (about 260 B.C.) called it the "Little Mist."

With the exception of this cluster and M67, most objects in Cancer are faint galaxies as we are starting the head away from the Milky Way.  Only one of these galaxies, NGC 2775, is in the Herschel 400 list.  Even so, Sky Atlas-2000 lists 7 galaxies, all of which should be visible in small scopes.  So make sure you are well dark adapted and that the twilight is gone away (My general rule of thumb is to wait until the twilight is dimmer than the brightest light dome on the horizon before doing any serious deep sky observing).

        NGC 2545 (08h14.2 +21 21) At 100x, I saw this galaxy as pretty small, not very bright, a little elongated, and containing a slightly brighter center.  Using averted vision did make it grow somewhat.  This is not an easy object.

        NGC 2608 (08h35.3 +28 29) This galaxy is not very bright at 70X, pretty small, kind of elongated, and has a brighter center.  Using averted vision makes it grow.  At 100X, the elongation is roughly  N/S, and at either power, no nucleus was noted.

        NGC 2623 (08h38.4 +25 46) I have no observation of this galaxy.  Here is the observation from the Night Sky Observer's Guide (by George Robert Kepple and Glen W. Sanner) for a 12-14" scope range:  "This galaxy has a very faint, circular 1.5' halo and is slightly brighter in the center."

        NGC 2632 (no, I'm not going to give you this one, you have to find it for yourself!)  This is the Praesepe or the Beehive cluster, M-44.  A naked eye object which to me is an unresolved haze.  Looking in 10x50 binoculars (hand held), I counted about 50 stars with the cluster making a beautiful field.  In the 10" scope at 35X, the star count was about 150, but the cluster is so large, it fills the full field of view.  There are a  few chains and 3 very nice triangles of bright stars.  There are several very faint galaxies within the boundaries of M-44, but I have never seen any of them.

        NGC 2672 (08h49.3 +19 04) Here we have a galaxy which is not too big, somewhat elongated NW/SE, and forms a triangle with 2 bright stars.  At 100X, there is a star just NW of the galaxy, increasing power to 140X makes the halo disappear, but an occasional stellar nucleus is seen.

        NGC 2682 (08h50.4 +11 49) The second open cluster in Cancer, M-67, is a very fine sight.  It is obvious in either a finder scope or binoculars.  At 70X,  it fills about 1/2 field of view, and is pretty condensed, pretty bright, and the star brightness is pretty even.  I counted about 75 stars plus 1 bright star to NE.  It has an unusual shape, kind of like a glass with a base, stem, and bowl.

        NGC 2749 (09h05.4 +18 19) Back to galaxies, this one is not real bright, not too big, no elongation noted, has a bright middle, with a possible nucleus at 100X.  The halo fades evenly, using averted vision makes it grow somewhat.  There is a nice arrangement of stars on NE.

        NGC 2764 (09h08.3 +21 27) As with NGC 2623, I have no observation of this galaxy.  Again, here is the observation from the Night Sky Observer's Guide for a 12-14" scope range: "This galaxy is 1/2 degree SSW of the wide pair of bright stars Xi = 77 Cancri (m5.14) and 79 Cancri (m6.01).  NGC 2764 has a fairly faint, circular 1' diameter halo, slightly elongated NNE-SSW with a prominent core.  A very faint star lies at the northern edge.  A 10th magnitude star is 2' north and another star SE."

        NGC 2775 (09h10.3 +07 03) We'll finish off this month with the best galaxy in the constellation, and the only Herschel 400 object.  I saw it as very bright, pretty big, with the halo being pretty dim and the middle being very bright, containing a possible stellar nucleus.  There is a slight elongation E/W.

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