FUZZY SPOT, November 1999, Pisces

Pisces is home to faint galaxies.  Unlike the spring skies where many galaxies abound including some bright ones, those here are scattered and will test your observing skills.  Although the stars aren't the brightest, the pattern of stars are easy to follow.  Starting with the circlet south of the square of Pegasus, the constellation heads E to Alpha, then turns north, this time along the E edge of the square.

Pisces also contains the vernal equinox, the point where the sum moves across the equator in the spring.  This point used to be in Aries, but due to precession, it has moved into Pisces.  However, precession is not a part of Astrology, and Aries is still the first constellation in the zodiac.

        NGC 128 (00h29.3 +02 51)  This object is pretty small, somewhat faint, and elongated N/S 3:1.  It contains a much brighter middle with a non-stellar nucleus.  There are other galaxies in this area, but they were at best uncertain in the 10" scope.  To the SW is a double star, which may be nebulous.

        NGC 379, 380, 382, 383, 384, 385, 386 (01h07.3 +32 31) This galaxy group was pointed out to me by Jim Stevens one night out at the White Tanks West site.  In the 20" scope, I saw them as a string of 7 galaxies with a bright star to the S, very beautiful.  This is a big area and it takes a few fields to get everything, but these 7 all fit in one (barely).  Going to lower powers makes them hard to see, so you are stuck with panning around.

        NGC 467, 470, 474 (01h19.2 +03 18)  These 3 galaxies are tough but doable in the 10" scope.  467 is somewhat small, pretty faint, and possibly elongated 2:1 N/S.  It has an extremely faint halo, a slightly brighter middle, and an occasional stellar nucleus.  There are 2 fairly bright stars to the WSW which forms an equally spaced group in a straight line.  The next galaxy, 470, is somewhat large, very faint, slightly brighter in the middle, and round.  Not much detail here, some mottling is occasionally suspected, but otherwise it is pretty much an amorphous blob.  Finally 474 is somewhat small, somewhat faint, and elongated 2.5:1 NE/SW.  It gradually then suddenly brightens up in the middle to a prominent stellar nucleus.

        NGC 488 (01h21.8 +05 16)  Moving to something a little easier, this galaxy is somewhat bright, somewhat large, and much brighter towards the middle.  As usual, using averted vision helps the halo grow.  It may show some mottling, even a possible spiral structure, but this is very uncertain.  The middle is much brighter, but without a nucleus.

        NGC 520 (01h24.6 +03 48) is somewhat faint, somewhat small, and elongated 3:1 NNW/SSE.  It has a slightly brighter middle which is also elongated same direction as the whole galaxy.  Averted vision makes it grow and brings out suspected detail near the ends of the halo.  There are no nearby bright stars.

        NGC 524 (01h24.8 +09 33)  This galaxy is pretty bright, pretty small, round, much brighter in the middle, and contains a stellar nucleus which comes and goes.  It is located in a grouping of 6 stars which form a very nice pattern.

        NGC 628 (01 36.6 +15 48)  The last object is the only Messier object in Pisces.  I have always considered M-74 as the toughest in the Messier list and for those that do the Messier Marathon, it is quite difficult, low on the horizon, often in twilight or zodiacal light.  I saw this (not at a marathon) as very large, pretty faint, and much brighter in the middle with no nucleus noted.  It is round, but the spiral structure was not seen.  Averted vision helps a little but using the hood didn't help much.  With averted vision, a counter-clockwise spiral structure was suspected.

Herschel 400 Objects
488, 524
SAC's 110 Best of the NGC Objects