FUZZY SPOT, September 1999, Aquarius
Aquarius, the Water Bearer, is one of the larger zodiacal constellations, and it sits amongst many water constellations, including Pisces, Cetus, Delphinus, Capricorn, and Piscis Austrinus. Well know for the song, the "Age of Aquarius", which won't happen for another 600 years or so, is when precessions will move the spring equinox into the constellation (it is now in Pisces)
The constellation is rich in galaxies, but also contains a couple of spectacular planetary nebulae. An interesting note about the Messier objects, although Aquarius is later in the zodiac than Capricorn, all of the Aquarius Messier objects rise before M-30 in Capricorn.
NGC 6981 (20h 53.5 -12 32) Our first object is globular cluster M-72. I saw it as pretty large, pretty bright, round, somewhat brighter in the middle, and fading away fairly evenly. There are no stars resolved in the 10" scope, but granularity comes and goes with seeing. There are 2 bright stars on the E, 2 dimmer stars to the S. Cranking up the power to 170X causes the granularity to come out and the stars are on the verge of popping out. Originally I called this one pretty dim, but in my second observation it seems fairly bright.
NGC 6994 (20h 59.0 -12 38) Is it an asterism or an open cluster? You decide. M-73 is simply a grouping of 4 stars forming a Y in a very distinct shape. The 2 stars at top of Y are brightest. Messier claimed he saw some nebulosity around the stars, but there is none. I'm not sure what it is about this grouping, but I really like it.
NGC 7009 (21h 04.2 -11 22) This planetary nebula is known as the Saturn Nebula due to the extensions, or ansae, looking similar to the rings of Saturn. I considered this object as very bright, somewhat small, and round. Using averted vision or the UHC filter didn't do much. There was a blue color noted. The extensions were suspected on ENE and WSW ends, but not obvious.
NGC 7089 (21h 33.5 -00 49) This is one of the best objects in Aquarius. Globular cluster M2 is very bright, fairly large, round, with about 50 stars resolved over a very bright haze. The center is much brighter, and even the halo is pretty significant. The cluster is slightly elongated N/S.
NGC 7293 (22h 29.6 -20 48) The last planetary nebula observed in Aquarius is the Helix Nebula. It is brighter on outside and fainter in the middle. The NE and SW sides are definitely brighter. About 8 stars are involved in the nebula including a star on E and on the NE is a star right on edge of nebula. The nebula itself if very large, pretty bright, round, and annular. One of the best objects in the sky!.
NGC 7492 (23h 08.4 -15 37) Going from one of the best objects to one of the biggest duds, this globular cluster is very faint, round, and pretty big. I needed averted vision to see it, moving the scope helped quite a bit. I suspected granularity and a little brightening toward middle. There are stars to E, WNW, WSW, and a nice triangle on the WNW. According to Luginbuhl and Skiff, this object isn't visible in a 25cm (10 inch) scope, but I was just barely able to pull it out in my 10" scope on a good night at Sentinel.
NGC 7606 (23h 19.1 -08 29) There are many galaxies in Aquarius, we'll finish off with three of the better ones. This is a nice elongated galaxy, with elongation NNW/SSE. It is somewhat brighter in the bulging middle and showing an occasional non-stellar nucleus. Stars bracket this galaxy nicely in a diagonal pattern.
NGC 7723 (23h 38.9 -12 58) This galaxy is somewhat bright, somewhat large, and brighter toward the middle. There is no elongation noticed, but an occasional non-stellar nucleus is seen. Using averted vision makes the halo grow. A very bright star is to W, just out of the field. To N is a single star, to the E is a single star with a faint companion, and to the S is a double star, all making a nice star field.
NGC 7727 (23 39.9 -12 18) Our last galaxy is pretty bright, pretty small, has a very much brighter middle and a possible stellar nucleus. Occasionally a star or stellaring is seen to the N, to W is bright star. Halfway between 7727 and the star may be NGC 7724.
Herschel 400 Objects
7009, 7606, 7723, 7727
SAC's 110 Best of the NGC Objects