FUZZY SPOT, September 1998, Vulpecula

Here is a faint constellation that sits between Cygnus and Sagitta.  It’s brightest star, 13 Vulpecula, is only mag 4.5 with alpha sliding in slightly dimmer at 4.6.  Somehow there is supposed to be the image of a fox within these faint stars, however I even have a hard time drawing a squiggley line between the faint stars.  The good news is that there are some real good Milky Way objects in this constellation as well as some faint nebulosity.  The great rift also slips through the fox.

The fox holds 1 Best of the NGC object, 6 Herschel 400 objects, and 1 Messier object, which is a show stopper.  So break out the scope and enjoy this faint but nice constellation.  Don’t forget the binoculars, there is a special treat here.

        NGC 6802 (19h30.6 +20 16) This faint open cluster is only slightly resolvable in the 10” scope.  At 100X, I could hold 3 or 4 stars over a granular haze elongated N/S.  Cranking up the power to 140X and using averted vision let me resolve perhaps 8 stars.  One nice feature is the double stars on either end of the cluster.

        NGC 6823 (19h43.1 +23 18) Here is an open cluster immersed in nebulosity.  At 70X, the cluster is pretty bright, somewhat small, poor, and fairly condensed.  I counted 25 stars in the central area with another 20 or so surrounding the middle.  Right in the middle is a real nice grouping of 4 stars.  Using the UHC filter, I could see a definite but subtle glow around the cluster without any detail.  This nebulosity is NGC 6820.

        NGC 6830 (19h51.0 +23 04)  This open cluster is somewhat bright, somewhat large, pretty poor, and fairly loose.  There are 4 levels of stars, with the brighter stars form a sort of arrow shape pointing to the SW, and another group of stars forming a triangle in the middle.  This is one of those poorly detached clusters where the star count is very subjective.  I counted 14 stars, with perhaps another 20 stars surrounding it.

        NGC 6853 (19h59.6 +22 43) This fantastic planetary nebula is M-27, the Dumbbell Nebula.  At 100X, it is very very large for a planetary, very bright, and shaped kind of like an apple core oriented N/S.  The dimmer part actually extends farther than bright parts (perhaps the juice from the eaten part of the apple).  I noted some stars around periphery, but no stars in nebula.  Although I don’t have an observation from the 20” scope, I do recall seeing the central star.

        NGC 6882 and 6885 (20h12.0 +26 29) Although these are two separate clusters, I have a hard time separating them.  I believe the area around 20 Vulpecula is 6885.  It is very poor, somewhat small, forming a triangle of 22 stars around 20 Vulpecula.  The area right next to 20 Vulpecula is star-poor.  NW of this is what I believe is 6885.  This is more what I expect for a cluster, pretty large, pretty bright, with 4 levels of stars and some possible granularity in the background.  Unlike many cluster in the thick of the Milky Way, this one is well detached.  I counted about 55 stars.

        NGC 6940 (20h34.6 +28 18) The final cluster of the night is very large, very well resolved, and elongated NE/SW.  There are 4 levels of stars numbering about 125.  The stars form a few chains and a lot of pairs.  Most of the concentration is on SW side.  Be sure and take a look at this one in binoculars.

        Cr-399 (19h25.4 +20 11)  One of the saddest days of my life is when I found out that the Coathanger was demoted from an open cluster to an asterism (Thanks to Brian Skiff, see his article in Sky and Telescope, Jan 1998, page 65).  OK, maybe I’m over reacting a little, but in my mind, this will always be an open cluster.  Using binoculars the coathanger shape shows up unmistakably with 6 stars forming the arm and 4 stars forming the hook, although the 4th star makes the hook look bent.  Using a telescope ruins the image as the field is too small and the background stars destroy the coathanger image.  Now that you’ve seen it in binoculars, look for it naked eye.  It is seen as a fuzzy patch with the shape just visible.

Herschel 400 Objects
6802, 6823, 6830, 6882, 6885, 6940
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects