FUZZY SPOT,  March 2002, Monoceros

Monoceros (which rhymes with rhinoceros) is the unicorn in the sky.  Our one horned friend sits in the sky between the two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor.  Monoceros is a very faint constellation, with its brightest star, Beta, only at magnitude 3.76.  This makes it tough to star hop in the area.  However it will be well worth the effort, as there are many nice open clusters and nebulae in this area with the Winter Milky Way passing directly through it.  All of these observations were taken in my 10" F4.5 scope.

        NGC 2236 (06 29.7 +06 50) The first open cluster of the month is a faint but nice cluster.  At 140X, I saw it as pretty faint, somewhat small, containing a bright star in the middle.  There are 2 layers of stars under the bright star with a faint granular haze.  It is elongated about 2:1 NW/SE.  To the W and SW of the cluster proper, is a string of stars that resemble a spiral arm.

        NGC 2244 (06 32.4 +04 52) Also, 2237, 2238, 2246.  This is the Rosette nebula complex.  2244 is the central open cluster, which is visible naked eye as a hazy area from a dark site.  The cluster is pretty bright, very large, very loose, and not at all rich.  It contains a fairly bright yellow star with 3 levels of stars under it, and a count of 15 Stars.  The nebula includes 2237, 2238, 2239, and 2246. It is seen to W of the central cluster without filter as a starless patch.  Using a UHC filter, the nebula really comes out.  On W is the largest area which is grey and featureless.  To E and SE of cluster, the nebula contains many dark lanes and detail.  The whole thing barely fits in field of view at 35X (1? 45’).

        NGC 2261 (06 39.2 +08 44) This is Hubble's Variable Nebula, and is one of the most interesting objects in the sky.  It looks like a little tiny comet!  At 140X I saw it as pretty small, pretty bright, and fan shaped pointing S.  The star at “head” comes and goes, and there is a star just to ENE.  Averted vision makes tail extend a little farther.  It is a hard object to describe.  The nebula fades evenly as you move away from the head.  As its name implies, this object does vary slightly over the years.

        NGC 2264 (06 41.1 +09 53)  This open cluster is extremely large, very bright, very poor, not at all condensed, and shaped roughly like a Christmas tree with the brightest star forming the trunk (on NNW) and a double star at the top.  Because of its shape, this cluster is knows as the "Christmas Tree Cluster".  In addition, the faint and elusive Cone nebula should point “down” to the top of the tree, but it was not seen.  There is some nebulosity seen at W end of “base” and possibly around the bright “base” star, which does not respond to the UHC filter.

        NGC 2286 (06 47.6 -03 10)  As we continue on with open clusters, this one is pretty large, pretty faint, somewhat rich, somewhat condensed, and elongated 2:1 NW/SE.  On SE end out of the cluster are 2 fairly bright stars, and another pair on the SW.  There are fairly bright stars around the edge and a lot of fuzziness in the middle, making  3 levels of stars and background haze.  I counted 20 brighter stars and about 30 faint stars in the middle that come and go.  Every once in a while the seeing really steadies up and the background stars pop out real nice.

        NGC 2301 (06 51.8 +00 28)  This cluster is very large, pretty bright, somewhat compressed, and a little rich, with a real nice yellow/blue double star in the middle.  4 levels of stars with about 50 stars were seen, using averted vision didn't bring out any more. There are stars radiating out forming a sort of an ‘X’ pattern.  4 stars trail away to S, and to E and N are strings of stars.

        NGC 2311 (06 57.8 -04 35)  Another open cluster, this one is pretty bright, a little small, somewhat condensed, somewhat rich, and somewhat detached from the background stars.  It is elongated 2:1 N/S with a string of stars trickling off to the S.  There are 2 levels of stars with no haze, and a count of about 30 stars.  This is a nice easy cluster with an unusual shape.

        NGC 2323 (07 03.2 -08 20)  The only Messier Object in Monoceros, M-50 is somewhat large, pretty bright, pretty rich, and pretty condensed.  There are 4 levels of stars with no haze seen, and a count of about 118 stars, including a nice bright orange star.  There are several nice groupings, but not many strings or arcs.  The ESE end of the cluster comes to a point at a wide double star.  There are perhaps some more outlying members, especially on the SSE.

        NGC 2324 (07 04.2 +01 03) This cluster is pretty large, somewhat faint, very rich, and very compressed.  There are perhaps 3 levels of stars with a very granular background haze.  The count is about 30 stars, using averted vision brings out a few more and reveals many suspected on the threshold of vision.  If it were brighter, it would really be something.  I figured that it I took a lot of time to study this one (waiting for moments of good seeing), I would probably see over 100 stars.

        NGC 2353 (07 06.6 -10 05)  This cluster is dominated by a bright star, and is pretty big and pretty bright.  There is a central grouping of stars with another shell surrounding this group which is probably not part of the cluster.  The shape is somewhat of a diamond. I saw 3 levels of stars with some possible unresolved haze, and counted 40 stars, probably double the count if the outer ring is included.  This cluster is visually very pleasing.

        NGC 2506 (08 00.2 -10 47)  The last object of the month is (guess what?) another open cluster.  It was seen at 100X as pretty bright, somewhat large, very very rich and very very condensed.  There are 2 levels of stars over a very bright and somewhat granular haze.  I was able to resolve about 15 of the brighter stars, but with the occasional background stars popping out, the count went up to 30 stars, but the cluster was still not fully resoled.

Herschel 400 Objects
2185, 2215, 2232, 2244, 2251, 2264, 2286, 2301, 2311, 2324, 2335, 2343, 2353, 2506
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects
2244, 2261