FUZZY SPOT, October 1997, Cepheus

Cepheus is a north circumpolar constellation with one edge sitting on the Milky Way and the other end stretching almost to Polaris.  Because of this, spans about 12 hours of right assention even though it is not considered a large constellation.  I always consider the pattern of the leading stars to form a stick drawing of a house.  As a beginner, I had a hard time finding this constellation, expecting it to be much brighter and smaller. Even now, it takes me a while to get oriented when working Cepheus.

Cepheus’ fame to claim is the star Delta Cepheus, the first discovered cephid variable, and one of the major yardsticks in measuring cosmic distances.  It turns out that the absolute luminosity or brightness of the star is related to the period of the variation.  Therefore, once the period is determined, and the apparent brightness is measured,  the absolute luminosity can be calculated, and based on the difference in the apparent and absolute luminosity, the distance can be calculated.  Although I have never observed the variability of a star, the range is from about 3.6 to 4.3 over a period of about 5 1/2 days which should be easily detectable.

        NGC 40 (00h13.0 +72 32)  At 140X, this planetary nebula is not too big, contains a very bright central star, but the nebula itself is not real bright.  Using the UHC filter or averted vision really helps bring out the nebula.  I was unable to see any anularity or color.  With filter, it may be elongated E/W with dark spots on N and S.  The bright star makes this planetary unusual.

        NGC 188 (00h44.4 +85 20)  Although this open cluster isn’t on either the SAC 110 Best of the NGC or the Herschel 400 lists, I decided to include this object due to it’s location, being the farthest north easily observable deep-sky object.  At 70X, I considered it as easy to find, not real bright, and fairly condensed.  3 layers of stars were seen with about 40 stars counted over granular haze.

        NGC 6939 (20h31.4 +60 38)  This open cluster was seen as not too bright, pretty big, with the bright stars form a “V” shape.  A string of 5 stars is on SW side and a lot of haze in background, which I suspect is unresolved stars.  About 20 stars were counted, many stars pop out with averted vision, perhaps 50 or so.

        NGC 6946 (20h34.8 +60 09)  This large spiral face-on galaxy sits on the Cepheus/Cygnus border, and some lists consider this object as in Cygnus.  At 70X, I considered it as very large, not real bright, slightly brighter center which fades smoothly into the halo.  Averted vision makes the halo stand out a little, and I even suspected counter-clockwise spiral.

        NGC 7129 (21h41.3 +66 06)  This nebula contains a grouping of 4 bright stars with an additional fainter star.  The nebulosity is fairly faint around the stars, using the UHC filter does not help.  At 140X, the views were a little better.  Nearby (to the E) is nebula 7133.

        NGC 7142 (21h45.9 +65 48)  At 100X, this fairly large open cluster is not very bright.  There are 2 bright stars to W and another bright star to the N. Averted vision helps resolves the haze a little.  I counted 35 stars using direct vision in 2 levels of stars.  I particularly liked the shape of this object.

        NGC 7380 (22h47.0 +58 06)  The final open cluster in this column.  At 70X, I considered this as pretty bright, pretty big, kind of triangular shape, in a nice field of stars. 25 stars were counted, with averted vision, more stars pop out.  A bright star on SW end was seen with a faint companion, and there is another nice double star further off of the same point of the triangle.  Finally, there is a bright star some distance out from double.  This cluster should be nice in small scopes.

        Mu Cepheus (21h43.5 +58 47)  This red star is one of the brightest of the carbon stars in the sky, and named the Garnet Star by William Herschel.  The color of this star is beautiful whether you are looking at it naked eye, through binoculars, or in the telescope.  Just south of the star is the open cluster and large nebula IC-1396.  There’s not much to the cluster, and so far my attempts to view the nebula has been unsuccessful.

Herschel 400 Objects
40, 6939, 6946, 7142, 7160, 7380, 7510
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects
40, 6939, 6946, 7129