Marbled Milky Way Magesty

NGC 6604
NGC 6604
Sketch and details by Eric Graff

Object Name: NGC 6604
Also Known As: H.VIII.15, Cr 373, C1815-122
Object Type: Open Cluster + Emission Nebula (Sh2-54)
Constellation: Serpens (Cauda)
Right Ascension (2000.0): 18h 18.0m
Declination (2000.0): –12° 14′
Magnitude: 6.5
Size: 6′ (some sources say 60′)
NGC Description: Cl, lRi, lC
Discovery: William Herschel, 15 July 1784

Date/Time: 4 July 2008 • 09:05 to 10:30 UT
Location: Oakzanita Springs (4,010 ft. elevation), San Diego Co., California, USA
Telescope: Parks Astrolight EQ6 • 6″ f/6 Newtonian Reflector
Eyepiece/Magnification: Parks 15mm Gold Series Plössl • 60x • 52′ FoV
Filters: Lumicon UHC, Lumicon OIII
Conditions: Clear, calm, 62°F
Seeing: Pickering 4-5
Transparency: NELM 6.3; TLM 14.0

If you sweep 1.6° north and slightly west of M16 you’ll chance upon a tight knot of five stars in a glittering field awash with hundreds of stars and marbled with complex swirls of bright and dark nebulosity. This small group (and undoubtedly many of the fainter stars that surround it) comprises the open cluster NGC 6604. The nebulosity (which I found remarkably easy to detect, even without filters) is the southernmost section of a large, but faint, HII region catalogued as Sh2-54. The 7th magnitude lucida of NGC 6604 is an O8 type star that is also an eclipsing binary (of the Beta Lyrae type) designated MY Serpentis. In spite of its spectral type, MY appears yellowish in the eyepiece; this is because the cluster (and nebulosity) is buried deeply in the Great Rift of the Milky Way, severely dimming and reddening its light.

In order to concentrate on the nebula itself, Eric notes: “I sketched the object(s) and a couple dozen of the brightest field stars and background nebulosity. Then, due to the extreme richness of the field I got out printed DSS negatives and started circling the stars I could see (which still took a fair amount of time). These were transferred to the sketches over the weekend. “

A Double and a Trifid


M20 (The Trifid Nebula)
Sketch by Eiji Kato

M20, The Trifid Nebula, is a famous and beautiful target for astro-photographers. The red emission nebula contains a young star cluster at its center, and is surrounded by a blue reflection nebula that is most noticeable at the northern end. It’s distance is not well agreed upon, and is listed anywhere from 2,200 light years (Mallas/Kreimer) to 9000 light years (Jeff Hester).

The dark nebula that crosses the Trifid was cataloged by Barnard and listed as B 85. The object was originally cataloged by Charles Messier in 1764, when he described it as a cluster of stars. William Herschel assigned catalog numbers to 4 different parts of the nebula (H IV.41, H V.10, H V.11, and H V.12).

Sparkling Winter Blossom

NGC 2174

NGC 2174
Sketch and Commentary by Bill Ferris

NGC 2174 is a truly spectacular nebula; one belonging on every amateur’s “must see” list. My sketch captures a 109X view in the 18-inch Obsession. The emission nebula ranges throughout the 45′ diameter field of view. The bright star near the center is 7.6 magnitude HD 42088. A clump of seven 8th through 10th magnitude stars blazes immediately to the north and east. Another 60+ stars are scattered across the field. A UHC filter enhances the breadth of the nebula. An OIII filter seems to give the dark rifts more oomph. The brightest portion of NGC 2174 surrounds HD 42088. From here, prominent branches extend to the north and southwest. More subtle patches of fluorescing gas are strewn about the field. What a magnificent object! You’ll find NGC 2174 in the northern-most reaches of Orion. 4.6 magnitude Chi2 (62) Orionis shines just 1.5 degree to the west.

Gardens of The Ethiopean Queen

A faint nebula in Cassiopeia


This object was brought to my attention by Sue French (Celestial Sampler). While Cassiopeia dominated the zenithal region of the sky, I tried my luck. The nebula was visible at x15 as a small patch around the star Burnham 1. How nice! The nebula showed even more details at x36. It was a pleasing sight in my little scope. The associated star cluster, IC 1590 remained invisible with the used set-up. Here is my impression.
Date : December 28, 2007
Time : around 17.30UT
Scope : Skywatcher 102/500
Vixen LV Zoom at 14mm
Power : x36
FOV: 85′
Filter : Lumicon UHC
Seeing : 3/5
Nelm : 5.2
Temp : -5°C
Elevation : 800m ASL (Bisschofshofen)

Sketch Orientation : N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.


In Search of IC 1318

IC 1318

The Gamma Cygni Starfield
By Rony De Laet

The Gamma Cygni Starfield, in search of IC 1318

Here is a sketch of a crowded milky way starfield. I waited for Gamma Cyngi to reach zenith, in an attempt to glimpse IC1318. I did not know what to expect and centered on Gamma Cygni. I was worried about the amount of stars that would be visible within the field of view. The UHC filter helped in reducing the number of faint stars to be drawn. I spent almost two hours behind the eyepiece. So here is my impression. I don’t know if I succeeded in observing IC 1318, I just represented the luminosity observed with the UHC filter.

Date : October 14, 2007
Time : 21.00UT
Scope : Skywatcher 102/500
TV Plössl 32mm
Power : x16
FOV: 192′
Filter : Lumicon UHC
Seeing : 3.5/5
Transp. : 3/5
Nelm : 5.2
Sketch Orientation : N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.

A Winter Trip to California

NGC 1499

NGC 1499, The California Nebula
By Rony De Laet 

Hello all,

Another challenging object suggested by Sue French is the California Nebula. The object has been imaged very often, mostly with an H-Alpha filter. I tried several times from within my backyard to locate NGC1499 visually with my four inch scope. With the H-Alpha images in mind, I expected to see an obvious streak of light in the eyepiece. Of course, my nelm 5.2 sky did not offer me such a view. At home, I suspected some nebulosity North of Xi Persei. I wondered what the Alpine sky would reveil of NGC 1499. My findings were at first dissapointing. I saw the same nebulosity as from my backyard, only did it show up more obvious. The way NGC 1499 appears to me visually would not inspire me to call it a California shape.  Nevertheless is NGC 1499 a very interesting object for the patient observer. I estimated the Nelm in Austria (Bisschofshofen) that night around mag 5.7. A better sky would offer a more detailed view for sure. Here is my impression.

Date : December 27, 2007
Time : around 17.30UT
Scope : Skywatcher 102/500
Eyepiece : Meade SP 26mm
Power : x20
FOV: 150′
Filter : Lumicon UHC
Seeing : 4/5
Transp. : 4/5
Nelm : 5.7
Elevation : 800m ASL
Sketch Orientation : N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with PhotoPaint, based on a raw pencil sketch.

“Like M42 on steroids!”

Eta Carina Nebula

The Eta Carina Nebula
By Rob Esson 

10B Graphite pencil on white sketch paper with blending stump. 18in f/4.5 Obsession
Dob with 17mm Nagler, giving a 0.7 degree field of view and magnification of 121x.
Sketched at the Deepest South Texas Star Party held at the Warrumbungles Mountain
Lodge in New South Wales, Australia on March 22, 2007.

I thought that I would follow up Jeremy Perez’ drawing of the Eta Carinae region
with binoculars (11/29/07) with a more detailed telescopic view. The Eta Carinae
region of nebulosity goes on – seemingly – for ever. This is merely a sketch around
the middle, and due to clouds coming in, is not as detailed as I might have liked if
I had had more time. The ‘blob’ about 2/3rds of the way towards about 12:30 on the
sketch is the Eta Carinae homunculus. Words are difficult to find to describe this
sight: it is probably the most impressive area in the sky. Although this sketch was
made using a Dob, binoculars or a wide field telescope are needed to take in the
nebula in its entirety. The Hubble pictures are no doubt fun to look at with all
their false colors, but the visual effect through the telescope, when the photons
are extinguishing on your own retinas as opposed to a ccd, is one of absolute
wonder: there are just numerous areas crying out to be examined in detail, like M42
on steroids!

Rob Esson, Kansas City MO

Eta Carinae from Haleakala

Eta Carinae Complex and NGC 3293
By Jeremy Perez

Move mouse over image to see labels. Click for larger image.

The observing highlight of an evening atop the summit of Haleakala in Maui was gazing through my binoculars at the rich starscape in the vicinity of Eta Carinae. I had not done any homework on the area beforehand, so I approached it with unexpecting eyes. The mottled depths of the surrounding Milky Way, the smattering of intensely bright foreground stars, the abundance of open clusters of all shapes, sizes and intensities, and the stunning patches of glowing nebulosity made the whole region a delicious feast for the eyes. One incredible open cluster to the northeast, nearly took my breath away, but I did not have time to even attempt a sketch of it. Instead, I chose to render the region bracketed by the Eta Carinae complex and a much more manageable cluster, NGC 3293.

Eta Carinae was a brilliant orange star that surrounded itself in a plush comfort of nebulosity. This misty region ended abruptly to the south and then emerged again to surround a trio of bright stars. The observation and sketch were done more hastily than I would have liked and I know there was more detail to be extracted from this bright nebula, but I took what I could get. The northwest side of the view was punctuated by the small, bright open cluster, NGC 3293. Four bright stars announced themselves within its glowing boundary of unresolved starlight.

This section of the sky is still beckoning me, and I know I will have to return to it again with more time to spare. Even if I only have binoculars again the next time, it will still offer more than I can possibly absorb.

The sketch was created on Strathmore sketch paper with 2H and HB pencils. Nebulosity was shaded with a blending stump loaded with graphite. Color was added to Eta Carina in Photoshop.

Object Information

Eta Carinae is one of the most massive stars in the universe and is likely greater than 100 solar masses. It is about 4 million times more luminous than the sun, but radiates 99% of this energy in the infrared. Due to its extreme mass, it is expected to go supernova within the next few hundred thousand years. In the meantime, as it rapidly sheds matter, it goes through sporadic, violent outbursts. The most recent outburst peaked in 1843 when Eta Carinae became a magnitude -1 star, second only to Sirius. This eruption generated a rapidly expanding plume of gas that now forms a fascinating dumbell shape.

Resplendent raptor

M16 Eagle nebula

M16 Eagle nebula

This nebula was drawn with graphite pencils on
white paper and then inversed after scanning.
The main field stars (until about magnitude 11)
was printed with a charting software and the
fainter stars and nebula were added during the
observation. It took about an hour to lay all the
details on paper.

17.5-inch dobsonian, F/4.5, 74 &125x, OIII filter
used for the fainter parts; 15/august/2004,
22h00UT, good transparency (visual limit of 6.31
in UMi); from La Clapière in the french alps at
an elevation of 1650m.

Yann Pothier