FUZZY SPOT,  June 2001, Centaurus

Centaurus represents the creature of a Centaur, which has the body of a horse but the upper torso, heads, and arms of humans.  Centaurs are normally monstrous and wicked creatures, but Chiron, who is preserved in Centaurus, was mild mannered, famous for his abilities in music, poetry, mathematics, and medicine.

Centaurus is a large southern constellation that unfortunately doesn't completely make it above the southern horizon for observers in Arizona.  It contains Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our solar system, which never makes it above the horizon.  However, two of it's famed objects, the great globular cluster Omega Centauri, and the peculiar galaxy and radio source Centaurus A are easily visible.

My observations are in Centaurus are limited, so some of these observations are taken from the great book "The Night Sky Observer's Guide" by George Robert Kepple and Glen W. Sanner.

        NGC 4373 (12h25.3 -39 44)  The Night Sky Obeserver's Guide gives this galaxy a rating of 4 stars.  For 12 to 14" scopes at 125x, it is described as "NGC 4373 has a stellar nucleus embedded within a large bright core which is surrounded by a much fainter halo elongated 2.5' X 1.5' NNE/SSW.  A 13th magnitude star is on the halo's north edge.  2' SW of NGC 4273 is its companion galaxy IC 3290, a faint glow elongated 1' x 0.5' NE/SW."

        NGC 4696 (12h48.9 -41 18)  Another 4 star galaxy in the Night Sky Observer's Guide, is described for a 12/14" Scope at 125X as "NGC 4696 has a fairly bright circular 3' diameter halo with a faint stellar nucleus.  13th magnitude stars are 1' NW, 1' SW, and 1' SE of the nucleus on the edge of the galaxy's halo.  NGC 4706 is 12' ENE and NGC 4709 is 15' ESE of NGC 4696."

        NGC 5128 (13h25.3 -43 01)  This is the peculiar galaxy Centaurus A. In the 10" scope at 100X, I saw it as somewhat bright, pretty big, with a very unusual shape, kind of like pac-man.  The dark lane is most prominent on the SE side. There is a little brightening towards the middle with the brightest portions being on the edges of the dark lane which runs NW/SE.  I first swept across this galaxy when looking for Omega Centauri, and thought it was a nebula, not a galaxy.  In the 20" scope at 150X, I saw it as very large, pretty bright, and round with a very prominent dark lane running WNW/ESE.  Down the middle of the dark lane is a bright streak, quite unusual.  There is one star on the W end of the dark lane and another star involved in the S half.  The southern half of the galaxy is brighter, with both halves fading to the E.

        NGC 5139 (13h26.8 -47 29)  In the 10" scope at 100X, Omega Centauri can only be described as WOW! It almost completely fills the 35' field of view. I roughly estimated that 200-300 stars were resolved over a slightly granular haze.  The halo quickly then slowly brightens up towards the middle.  There are not many arcs or strings of stars, however there is a clump on the E side, a few more on the NW side, and on the S is a string of 4-5 stars parallel to edge of cluster. There are 5 field stars surrounding cluster.  Even though I spent 15 minutes putting dots on the paper, it is impossible to draw properly.

        NGC 5286 (13h46.4 -51 22)  I normally don't observe objects further south than -50 degrees, but I decided to do this globular cluster one night at Buckeye Hills.  It is somewhat bright, pretty small, and next to a bright star.  The faint halo brightens up to a smooth center which contains an occasional brighter nucleus.  The round globular was somewhat granular but no stars were resolved.  It is brighter than many globulars higher up.

        NGC 5367 (13h57.7 -39 58)  This nebula was seen in the 10" scope as a smooth glow, somewhat faint, somewhat small, and surrounding a star.  It disappeared with the UHC filter. There are stars to E and S that form a right triangle.  My notes say "unable to confirm object on PAL plates", but looking at the Deep Sky Survey now, it seems to match up pretty good.  I guess I need to observe it again and make sure.

Herschel 400 Objects
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects
5128, 5139