FUZZY SPOT, July 2001, Libra
Libra, the scales, is the only inanimate constellation in the zodiac. Surprisingly, the celestial scales goes back quite far in history. An ancient Mesopotamian carving of about 2200 B.C. shows a priest holding a balance-beam scale out over an alter in front of the enthroned sun-god Shamash. Because Shamash was also the god of justice, even at that early date scales symbolized the "weighing of justice" (from "The Night Sky Observer's Guide by George Robert Kepple and Glen W. Sanner). Although at some point the scales were unsuccessfully transformed into the claws of the scorpion, there is still remnants of the transformation in the names of the brightest stars, Zubenelgenubi (the southern claw) and Zubeneschamali (the northern claw).
The constellation is fairly poor in stars, and also in deep sky objects. Galaxies are predominate in this area, but there is a globular cluster and a non-NGC planetary nebula.
NGC 5858 (15h08.8 -11 13) and NGC 5861 (15h09.1 -11 20). These objects form a nice pair of galaxies. In the 10" scope, I see 5858 as a little bright, pretty small, with a faint halo which slowly then suddenly brightens up to the middle. The middle is pretty bright with a possible non-stellar nucleus. Although it is the smaller of the two, it is much brighter. 5861 is somewhat bright, somewhat large, elongated NW/SE about 2:1, and has a faint halo which gradually brighten up to the middle. There is no visible nucleus. In the 20" scope, 5858 is pretty small, somewhat faint, round, and brighter in the middle with a bright stellar nucleus. 5861 is pretty big, slightly bright, elongated about 2:1 WNW/ESE, and slightly brighter in the middle with no visible nucleus.
NGC 5872 (15h11.0 -11 30) This galaxy is pretty small in the 10" scope, pretty faint, contains a slightly brighter middle with a possible nucleus and a star or stellaring on the ENE side. I was unable to tell if there was any elongation. This is one of those while Im in the area, I might as well get it type of galaxies. In the 20" scope, it was seen as pretty small, pretty faint, round, and with an occasional non-stellar nucleus. The galaxy forms a double with a star to the NE.
NGC 5885 (15h15.1 -10 04) In the 10" scope, this galaxy is pretty faint, somewhat large, round, and with a halo that brightens up very slightly toward the middle. It is right up against a mag 10 or 11 star which interferes with the observation. Some mottleling was suspected with averted vision. In the 20" scope, it is pretty big, somewhat faint, slightly brighter in the middle without a nucleus, and somewhat mottled. It is possibly elongated N/S about 2:1, but the bright star on the N side may be causing an illusion.
NGC 5897 (15h17.4 -21 01) This is the globular cluster in Libra. In the 10", it is pretty large, somewhat faint, and hard to tell its shape. Using averted vision helps bright it out. I counted about 10 stars over a very faint and coarse granular haze, barely resolvable. Using averted vision in moments of good seeing may possibly show 20 stars. There really isn't much to this globular, although I just finished observing M-5 so I am a little biased. In the 20" scope, it is very large, somewhat faint, and irregularly round. There are 2 levels of stars over an extremely granular haze with about 30 stars counted and many more on threshold of seeing.
NGC 5898 (15h18.2 -24 06) and NGC 5903 (15h18.6 -24 01) Seen in the 10" scope, 5898 is pretty small, very faint, round, and slightly brighter in the middle with a faint stellar nucleus. There is a star to the SW of the galaxy. The other half of the pair, 5903, is pretty small, very faint, round, and very slightly brighter in the middle. It is slightly brighter than 5898. In the 20" scope, 5898 is pretty small, a little faint, round, and has a slightly brighter middle. 5903 is essentially the same as 5898 except the middle may be a little brighter. Between the two galaxies and slightly S is MCG-04-36-07, a very small galaxy, pretty faint, slightly brighter in the middle, and elongated slightly NW/SE.
Me2-1 (15h22.3 -23 38) is a planetary nebula also known as PK 342+27.1. In the 10" scope it is pretty bright, extremely small, and has a possible but uncertain haze around the center. There is a star to W which is brighter than the planetary. Using the UHC filter really doesn't help much except to assist in finding the object. I have not yet observed it in the 20" scope.
Herschel 400 Objects
SACs 110 Best of the NGC Objects