FUZZY SPOT, February 2003, Gemini
Along with being the twins in the Zodiac, Gemini is a fine Winter Milky Way constellation. The two leading stars, Caster and Pollux, form the heads of the twins. I always have a hard time remembering which is which, until I finally realized that Caster is closer to Capella, and Pollux is closer to Procyon, funny how that works out.
Since this constellation sits in the Winter Milky Way, it is rich in open clusters and planetary nebula including the wonderful Eskimo Nebula and the elusive Medusa Nebula. For large scopes, there are quite a few galaxies that can be hunted down.
NGC 2129 (06 01.0 +23 18) Our first object is one of many open clusters in Gemini. I saw it as a nice tight knot of stars, with two pretty bright stars, 4 levels of brightness and with about 20 stars. On the E side is a nice double. Overall, the object is pretty small and pretty bright.
NGC 2168 (06 08.9 +24 20) M-35 is the only Messier object in Gemini. This is such a large cluster, it is best seen with low powers. At 35X, there is a very nice chain of 10 stars forming an arc in the middle. I saw 4 levels of stars with 100 stars estimated. There is a bright star on the outskirts, not sure if it is a member. Overall it is extremely large, extremely bright, very rich, and very even. Just SW of M-35 is NGC 2158 (06 07.5 +24 06), and unlike M-35, it is quite small, so high powers are needed for this. At 240X I saw about 18 pretty faint stars over haze, one very bright star at E edge. It is very small, kind of triangular in shape.
NGC 2266 (06 43.2 +26 58) Another open cluster, this one is roughly triangular shaped with a bright star at the apex. It is pretty bright, pretty small, real rich, and pretty dense in the middle. I count about 18 stars over a granular background.
NGC 2304 (06 55.0 +18 01) This open cluster is somewhat small, pretty faint, very rich, and very condensed. The stars are all very faint, popping in and out with seeing and averted vision. The cluster is elongated 2:1 E/W with kind of a hook to the S. There are 3 levels of stars over a very granular haze, with a count of about 20 stars that I can hold and about another 20-25 that come and go.
NGC 2355 (07 16.9 +13 47) The last open cluster for this month is a little bright, somewhat large, somewhat rich, pretty condensed, and round in shape. I saw 4 levels of stars and a possible unresolved haze. The star count was 23 stars with some more that pop out using averted vision. On the SE side is a bright star involved that dominates the cluster. In the more or less middle is a nice double. To the N is a bright star with a few more around it, which almost looks like another cluster.
NGC 2371/2372 (07 25.6 +29 29) Here you have a chance to get two Herschel 400 objects in one shot These objects are the bright lobes of a planetary nebula. In the 10" scope, I saw them as very bright, pretty small, with 2 very distinct spots. The nebula is very elongated NE/SW, with the SW side being brighter. Use of the UHC filter makes it brighter but doesnt bring out any detail. In the 20" scope, it is very bright, and pretty small. It is a double nebula with the central star clearly seen. The lobes are aligned ENE/WSW. Overall nebula is round (fainter outer nebulosity is seen here which is not visible in the 10" scope). It is a very nice and unusual planetary
2392 (07 29.2 +20 55) Our final object for the month is one
of the best planetary nebula in the sky, the Eskimo Nebula. In
the 10" scope, it is small (but large for a planetary),
pretty bright, and next to a star that is a little
brighter. Using averted vision makes it grow quite a
bit. It is much brighter in the middle. With direct
vision, there appears to be a central star. Use of the UHC
filter makes it grow a little, especially for direct
vision. At 170X, there is a bright center, a dark ring,
then a bright ring at the outside In the 20" scope, it
is very bright, pretty large for a planetary, round, and contains
a very obvious central star. Surrounding the central star
is a bright area, then a darker ring, than a bright ring.
Using averted vision shows some additional mottling. There
is a fairly bright star to the NW which does not
interfere. Using the O-III filter, the central star
disappears along with some detail, so this is best seen without
the filter. There is some additional stuff going on at the
Herschel 400 Objects
2129, 2158, 2266, 2304, 2355, 2371, 2372, 2392, 2395, 2420
SACs 110 Best of the NGC Objects