FUZZY SPOT, January 2000, Taurus
Let's begin the new millennium (or start the last year of this millennium, however you chose) by looking at the bull. Although Taurus is the bull, really only the front half is seen in the sky, with the "V" of the Hyades forming the head and bright Aldebaran being the eye. Someone at the All Arizona Star Party (I don't remember who it was) pointed out to me that since Aldebaran is red and is the "bull's eye," most dart boards have the bull's eye as red.
Taurus is home to many open clusters, some nebula, and a couple of supernova remnants which are about as different as you can get. There's a lot to go over, so let's jump right into it.
NGC 1514 (04h09.2 +30 47) This is a fantastic planetary nebula. In the 20" scope at 160X, I saw an extremely bright central star (which is probably a coincidental foreground star). Surrounding the star is a very large, pretty bright, round, and very mottled glow of the nebula. The brightest part is perhaps annular around the star. In the 10" scope, I saw a very bright stellar center. At 70X, the nebula is pretty large, fading out smoothly from the center, and with the UHC filter, possibly elongated. Using averted vision makes the nebulosity grow somewhat, and helps better define the edges. This is a fascinating and fabulous planetary.
NGC 1647 (04h46.0 +19 04) This open cluster is very loose, with about 40 stars. There are a couple of doubles in the middle with a fairly bright pair off to one side. This cluster is very easy to find.
NGC 1746 (05h03.6 +23 49) This very large object is a complicated cluster, containing NGC 1750 and NGC 1758 within it's boundaries. The main cluster is pretty bright, pretty rich, slightly condensed, and has about 90 stars in 5 or 6 levels. The brightest stars are loose with some tight clumps of fainter stars. On the ENE side of the cluster is a clump of stars, which I guessed is NGC 1758. On the N side is another grouping, but is not one of the sub-clusters. NGC 1750 is on the SE side, and is not at all obvious.
NGC 1807 (05h10.7 +16 32) Along with NGC 1817 (see below), this open cluster forms a nice pair. It is pretty bright, somewhat large, not at all condensed, and quite poor. There are about 20 stars total in 4 levels, and no background stars. The brighter stars forms an M. This cluster is even visible in 10x50 binoculars.
NGC 1817 (05h12.1 +16 42) In comparison to NGC 1807, this open cluster is somewhat faint, pretty large, pretty rich, and pretty condensed. There are 4 levels of stars with about 80 obvious stars plus some more that pop out with good seeing. There is a bright double star on WNW edge, and 5 or 6 more bright stars around the edge. Faint but overall a real nice cluster.
NGC 1952 (05h34.5 +22 01) This is the famous Crab Nebula and the first of Messier list. At 100X it is pretty big, and not real bright. Using the UHC filter doesn't help much. Increasing the power to 140X, it is seen as much a elongated and fairly even gray blob with a star on either end. This is a fairly early observation of mine and although I have looked at it many more times, I don't have anything written down. I do know from memory that there is a lot more detail visible if one takes the time to really study it.
Mel 22 (03h47.0 +24 07) and IC 349 (03 46.3 +23 56) This is the beautiful Pleiades open cluster along with the Merope Nebula. It is hard to believe the Charles Messier included this in his list as one would have to have real bad eyesight (or be really drunk) to mistake this for a comet. But as a cluster, this one must be described with superlatives: very large, very bright, very easy naked eye. I counted 6 stars from light polluted sight. In a 6" F6 scope, it takes about 4 field of views to get the entire cluster. There are 76 obvious stars seen from town, with a very nice triangle in the center and a very nice string of 7 stars to the SSE. From a dark site at 70X (in the 10" scope), the Merope nebula is seen as somewhat faint and fanning to the S of Merope. It fills about 1/2 the field of view. A little bit of nebulosity is seen around some of the other stars.
Mel 25 (04h27.0 +16 00) The final cluster of this month is the Hyades open cluster. It was fun to try to draw this one from the scope since it took about 10 fields to get the entire object even at 35X. I counted about 130 obvious stars within the "V". The middle naked eye "star" in the Aldebaran arm of the "V" is a real nice grouping. One of the most memorable views of this cluster was one evening when the Taurus was low in the sky and therefore the "V" was upright, the moon was centered in it, looking like the cluster was holding up the moon.
Simeis 147 or Sh2-240 (05 39.1 +28 00) This extremely large supernova remnant is on the Taurus/Auriga border. I have searched many times for this object in both the 10" and the 20" scope, and so far I have at best suspected only a few parts of it. Steve Coe refers to it as the "Veil Nebula as seen in a 2 inch scope", although I would disagree with that as I can easily see the Veil in 10x50 binoculars. According to Chris Schur, this is also a very difficult object to photograph, and I have seen very few successful photos of it. If you want a real tough object to go after, this is the one!
Herschel 400 Objects
1647, 1750, 1817
SAC's 110 Best of the NGC Objects