Elliptical Galaxy (cD) in Phoenix
Parks Astrolight EQ6 • 6″ f/6 Newtonian Reflector
7.5mm Parks Gold Series Plössl • 120x, 26′ Field of View
11 October 2007 • 06:30-07:15 UT
IC 1633 is the antithesis of NGC 55. It is located 1° northeast of 3rd-magnitude Beta (β) Phoenicis, half the distance between that star and 5th-magnitude Nu (ν) Phe. Small, and faint, its feeble glow is best detected with averted vision. In the eyepiece it is completely featureless. In reality, IC 1633 is a gargantuan elliptical galaxy lurking in the heart of galaxy cluster Abell 2877 (of which it is by far the most prominent member). Its distance from Earth is estimated at 325 million light-years! That fact alone, made this observation worthwhile.
As I observed this pale mist of ancient photons (and futilely scanned the field for other cluster members – or even a few more field stars), IC 1633 became entangled in the fire-blackened boughs of an oak tree victimized by the 2003 Cedar Fire. On a whim (and growing a little bored with my fruitless search for anything else to add to my sketch) I hastily added the twisted limbs to the drawing, providing a surreal juxtaposition of objects near and far.
James Dunlop apparently discovered IC 1633 during the 1820’s from the Brisbane Observatory at Paramatta, New South Wales, Australia. As this object failed to appear in the NGC, we may presume it was one of the (many) objects discovered by Dunlop that could not be recovered by John Herschel. In the Second Index Catalogue, DeLisle Stewart and Lewis Swift share credit for the discovery (or “re-discovery”) of IC 1633.