Lesser known Open Star Clusters.
Telescope: Takahashi FCT-76
Location: Cedar Park, Texas, USA
Time: 10 pm – 1 am
Sky Transparency: 7
Limiting Magnitude: ~ 4.5
Lunar Phase: Waning Crescent
Time to take a detour to the lesser known Open Star Clusters! Some of the following objects may be familiar to you [especially the Messiers], but for some newcomers to astronomy this may be your first time to hear about them. It took me a few years of observing to star-hop to these clusters because of their size, magnitude, or location relative to bright stars.
- NGC 1647 – This is a very nice small scope cluster and not as hard to find as most others listed here [just go straight up several degrees from the top of the Hyades]. I could see about 30 stars spread out over a degree with some concentration towards the center. There are two bright stars [white and yellowish-white] on the cluster’s edge which are probably unrelated to the group.
- NGC 1746 – Continuing on a line from NGC 1647 is NGC 1746. This cluster is much wider and looser with no real concentration to its 35 stars. A wide-field eyepiece is required to appreciate it.
- M 50 – I counted 20 faint stars in this small, concentrated cluster which is situated in a very rich star field. The wide-field views in this region are instructive in showing the variation of obscuring gas that blocks out the innumerable number of stars in other sections our galaxy.
- M 48 – Talk about really out of the way. You have to use Alpha & Beta Canis Major and Alpha & Beta Canis Minor as directional lines to point to M48 [look at a star chart]. The cluster is about the same size as M 44, but has fainter stars [~ 35] and is less concentrated. It’s a nice pit stop on the way out of the galaxy and into the void of Spring skies.
- M 67 – Once again, only a flicker of starlight can be seen in this cluster with the FCT-76. I’ll need to observe from a dark site or use a larger telescope to see the fainter magnitude 12+ stars that populate this ancient group.