FUZZY SPOT,  October 2003, Aquarius

Fall is one of my favorite observing times.  The hot days of summer (for us here in Arizona) are starting to cool down, the nights are bearable in the desert, the skies are starting to get dark earlier, and with the fall skies, you have a choice of Milky Way objects or galaxies.  This month, I'm going mainly for the galaxies in Aquarius.

Aquarius is the water bearer in the sky, and forms sort of a transition constellation between the land creatures and the sea creatures.  As I mentioned, Aquarius holds mostly galaxies, but there are a few globular clusters and planetary nebulae.  So let's jump into all these objects.

        NGC 6981 (20 53.5 -12 32)  We'll start with M-72, one of the Messier globular clusters in Aquarius.  It is pretty large, pretty bright, round, and somewhat brighter in the middle, fading away fairly evenly.  I was unable to resolve any stars, but the texture is granular which comes and goes with seeing.  There are 2 bright stars on the E and 2 dimmer stars to the S.  Increasing the power to 170X causes the granularity to come out and there are some stars on the verge of popping out.

        NGC 7009 (21 04.2 -11 22)  This is the wonderful Saturn Nebula.  In the 10" scope, I see it as very bright, somewhat small and round.  Using averted vision or the UHC filter doesn’t do much.  The blue color of the nebula was noted.  The extensions are suspected on ENE and WSW ends, but not obvious.  In the 20" scope, it is very bright, pretty small, and the main body of the nebula is elongated 1.3:1 E/W.  The extensions are very obvious as is the very definite blue color.  Using the O-III filter doesn’t do too much.  There is a star to the N.

        NGC 7089 (21 33.5 -00 49)  This is the best Messier object in Aquarius.  M-2, a wonderful globular cluster, is very bright, fairly large, round, and slightly elongated N/S.  I was able to resolve about 50 stars over a very bright and granular haze.  The center is much brighter, but the halo is pretty significant.  The E side of the cluster appears to be cut off.  I have not observed this globular with the 20" scope yet.

        NGC 7171 (22 01.0 -13 16)  We're starting to move into galaxies now.  In the 10" scope, it is very faint, pretty small, and elongated 3:1 NW/SE with a lenticular shape.  It is only slightly brighter in the middle.  There are 3 stars to the E which point toward the galaxy.  Using averted vision helps slightly.  In the 20" scope, it is somewhat faint, slightly large, and slightly brighter in the middle with no nucleus.  The galaxy is elongated 2.5:1 WNW/ESE.  On ESE end is a star involved in the halo.  A nice string of stars on the NE side point to the galaxy.  Averted vision may show some mottling, and a possible nucleus.

        NGC 7184 (22 02.7 -20 49)  I've only observed this galaxy in the 20" scope.  At 180X, it is pretty bright, slightly large, and elongated 4:1 ENE/WSW.  The middle is much brighter and contains a sub-stellar nucleus.  There is a star on ENE end and 2 stars on the WSW end.  The halo appears to be cut off on the S side.  Using averted vision shows this object quite well.  There is a faint star involved on the E side which is held about 20% of the time.

        NGC 7218 (22 10.2 -16 40)  In the 10” scope, this galaxy is pretty faint, a little small, and elongated 2.5:1 NE/SW.  It brightens to the middle, but there is no nucleus.  There are 2 faint stars involved, 1 on the E just out of galaxy and 1 on the SE just on the tip of the galaxy.  These stars are best seen with averted vision.  There is a brighter star further to the E.  In the 20" scope, it is pretty bright, pretty large, slightly brighter in the middle with an occasional non-stellar nucleus.  It is elongated NE/SW 2:1.  There is a bright star involved with the halo on the NE end, and another bright star to E of the middle of the galaxy.  Using averted vision may make the E side of the galaxy drop off, this may either be a dust lane or an optical illusion due to the star.  Also, a tiny bit of mottling was noted.

        NGC 7293 (22 29.6 -20 48)  This is the Helix Nebula, one of my favorite objects in the sky.  If you are tired of looking at planetary nebula that look like stars, this object is for you.  Interestingly, I have not made any notes of this object from the 20" scope although I've observed it many times.  In the 10" scope at 70X, it is very large, pretty bright, round, and annular.  Using the UHC or O-III filter makes a huge difference.  The NE and SW sides are definitely brighter.  There are about 8 stars in the nebula, including a star on the E and one on the NE side right on the edge of the nebula.

Herschel 400 Objects
7009, 7606, 7723, 7727
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects
7009, 7293