FUZZY SPOT, November 2002, Cassiopeia
Last month we looked at Cepheus, the King. This month we will look at his wife, Cassiopeia. This prominent "W" or "M" shape in the sky is loaded with open clusters, including two Messier objects. In addition, there are several nebulae and a few galaxies, including two companions of the great Andromeda galaxy. With all there is to see, let's skip the mythological information and get right into observing Cassiopeia. All of these observations were made in my 10" F4.5 scope.
NGC 129 (00 29.9 +60 14) Our first of many open clusters is very large, pretty bright, pretty rich, but not very condensed. There is a bright star to the S of cluster, a nice clump of 7 fairly bright stars on the S side of cluster (N of the star), then going N, the cluster fans out to a whole bunch of loose stars. I saw 4 levels of stars and estimated a count of about 45 stars.
NGC 147 (00 33.3 +48 30) and NGC 185 (00 39.0 +48 20) These galaxies are companions to the Andromeda galaxy. NGC 147 is pretty large and pretty faint with a low surface brightness. Use averted vision to best view this object. It is slightly brighter in middle and is elongated N/S. NGC 185 is pretty bright, pretty large, and slightly brighter in middle. The halo is somewhat faint, using averted vision makes it come out. There is a possible elongation N/S.
NGC 225 (00 43.4 +61 47) This open cluster is pretty bright, pretty big, and quite loose. I saw 3 levels of stars with a count of 26 stars. The cluster has a nice shape but is poor in stars.
NGC 281/IC 1590 (00 52.8 +56 37) This is a poor open cluster surrounded by a nice nebula. The central star is a nice triple surrounded by about 10 stars which is presumably the cluster. The nebula responds quite well to a UHC filter. It is very large and fairly bright around the central star. To the S is a dark area almost forming a V. I saw some mottling and dark lanes throughout the nebula, with lots of detail. The NE side fades away pretty gradually, and to E of the cluster is a dark lane running N/S.
NGC 381 (01 08.3 +61 35) This open cluster is somewhat faint, pretty large, pretty rich and pretty condensed. It contains 2 levels of stars with some unresolved haze in the background, using averted vision helps pull out some more stars. I counted about 27 stars plus the threshold stars.
NGC 457 (01 19.1 +58 20) This cluster is most commonly called the Owl Cluster, but I've also heard it referred to as the Kachina Cluster. It is an absolute wow! The two bright stars are white/yellow and white/blue. I saw 5 levels of stars and another level on the edge of resolution. I counted 76 stars plus more with averted vision, not counting the stars in the feet area.
NGC 559 (01 29.5 +63 18) This open cluster is fairly small and pretty faint. There are 3 bright stars over a layer of fainter stars, which in turn is sitting on an unresolvable, very granular haze. Using averted vision and moving the scope makes much of the haze resolve. The cluster is elongated NE/SW. I was able to count about 20 stars with averted vision, many others pop out with the seeing.
NGC 581 (01 33.2 +60 42) M-103 is the first of the Messier cluster we come to in Cassiopeia. I see it as small, pretty bright, and a little condensed. It is a nice grouping of stars with a nice wide yellow and blue double on the SE side, and blue star on the NW side. There are 5 levels of stars with about 20-30 stars resolved. The range of stars and color contrast makes this a nice cluster.
NGC 1027 (02 42.7 +61 33) This cluster is bright, very large, very rich, not condensed, and elongated NW/SE with a bump on NE end. I saw 4 levels of stars including a very bright star in middle, and counted at least 100 stars. It is hard to tell where the edge of the cluster is.
NGC 7654 (23 24.2 +61 35) Swinging all the way back to the W end of the cluster brings us to the second Messier cluster, M-52. It is very large, very bright, and very rich. There is a very bright star pair on the SW side. I see 4 levels of stars over some haze, and counted 94 stars plus a faint group of about 25 stars to E. This is a very glorious cluster which for some reason I tend to forget about.
NGC 7789 (23 57.0 +56 44) The last cluster here is one of the best in the skies. It is very large, not real bright, very rich, very compressed. I see 3 levels of stars over an extremely granular haze that pops out with averted vision and good seeing. I counted about 75 stars plus at least another 50 threshold stars. There are several voids in cluster. Don't pass this cluster by.
Herschel 400 Objects
129, 136, 185, 225, 278, 381, 436, 457, 559, 637, 654, 659, 663, 1027, 7789, 7790
SACs 110 Best of the NGC Objects
185, 281, 457, 663, 7789