FUZZY SPOT, July 1997, Scorpius

When I took up this column, one of the constellations that I was excited about doing was Scorpius.  When I looked into it, I was very surprised to find out the there are only two Herschell 400 objects and NO SAC 110 best of the NGC objects!  There is such a variety of very nice objects, I was quite shocked.  So I am going to include a few of my favorite objects in addition to the two Herschell 400 ones.  I am also going to include a couple objects from the neighboring constellations, Serpens and Libra.  In fact, Libra was at one time associated with Scorpius, and some traces of this are still left in the names of the lead stars of Libra wich mean the north claw and south claw (Zuben Eschamali and Zuben El Genubi respectively, I love saying those names).

Scorpius is also special to me in that it contains the object responsible for pulling me into observational astronomy.  Once I found M7 in binoculars, that was it!  I still like looking at this object in binoculars, even from a light polluted sight.  Another thing about Scorpius, it is fairly east to make out the pattern of a scorpion, unlike most constellations where you need a lot of imagination (or a lot of beer) to make out the figure (a king out of a house?).

Enough rambling on, let’s get on with looking at these Herschell objects, and some of the spectacular objects that are missing from the lists.


        NGC 6124 (16h25.6 -40 40)  This is a real nice open cluster in the SW part of Scorpius.  At 50X, it pretty much fills the entire field of view.  I saw it as large, condensed toward the middle, 2 levels of stars with some nice groupings in the middle.  When I observed this object, it was somewhat in the glow of Palo Verde, and I counted about 55 stars.

        NGC 6144 (16h27.3 -26 02)  This globular cluster is somewhat faint and somewhat small with possible elongation E/W.  There is not much concentration, mainly a granular haze with a bright star (probably a field star) on the west and no other stars resolved.

        NGC 6231 (16h54.0 -41 48) and neighbors.  I consider this “THE” open cluster visible from our latitude, I can only dream about what it looks like when it is high in the sky.  I consider this as extremely bright, pretty big, very rich, pretty condensed, and slightly elongated E/W. There are 5 levels of stars with a star count of 40 obvious ones in the central concentration, averted vision brings out more.  There is an interesting string of 4 stars in the middle that increase in magnitude as the string progresses, giving the effect of the string ‘sticking up’ out of the cluster.  I also observed this cluster on a night at Buckeye Hills that I rated 9/10 for seeing.  The cluster was only about 7 degrees above the horizon.  The stars were barely flickering!  While in this area, be sure and check out the neighbors, NGC 6242, NGC 6288, Harvard-12, and nebula IC-4628 (Sky Atlas 2000 shows an incorrect location and size for this nebula).

        NGC 6334 (17h20.6 -36 04).  This is a challenging nebula that has been called the Cat Paw nebula.  I was unable to see it without the UHC filter, but with the filter at 70x, I saw 4 sections of very faint nebulosity surrounding stars.  It is obvious how it got the name.

        NGC 6451 (17h50.7 -30 13)  Dog gon it! I forgot to put this open cluster on my observing list.  So here is the observation from OBSERVE The Herschel Objects (Ancient City Astronomy Club):  “Open cluster located in Sagittaruis, 6’ in size.  Large, few stars scattered in towards the central area, tightly grouped.  Faint stars within, intermediately rich. (8-inch Refl.)”  Although they call it as in Sagittarius, it is actually just in the boundary of Scorpius


        NGC 6118 (16h21.9 -02 17)  This galaxy is just S of a Mag 6 star which really interferes with the observation.  I saw it as very faint, pretty small, elongated NNE/SSW with some brightening toward the middle.  Keeping the star out of the field is essential for this object, averted vision doesn’t help at all.  I considered this as one of the hardest Herschell objects observed to date, and one of the bigger “duds”.


        NGC 5897 (15h17.4 -21 01)  According to an early observation of mine, I saw this globular cluster as very large, faint, round, and a hint of resolution at 70X.  At 110X, about 10 stars come and go over the haze.

Herschell 400 Objects
(Scorpius) 6144, 6451, (Serpens) 6118, (Libra) 5897
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects