Descriptive information was drawn from The Sky Atlas 2000.0, 2nd Edition by R. A. Strong and R. W. Sinnott with descriptions by W. Tirion and R. W. Sinnott (2000, Sky Publishing Corp. and Cambridge University Press), and Burnham's Celestial Handbook by Robert Burnham, Jr. (1978, Dover Publications, Inc.). North is up and east to the left in all photos. Every effort has been made to display all photos at the same magnification unless otherwise stated.

M103 1h 33.2m 60° 42´ Cassiopeia 7.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 1

M103 2010-10-31

NGC 581

2010-10-31
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus with reducer/corrector (54.1×)
Created from seventy-three 15 s - ISO 800 photos. I removed calibration frames from each photo, enhanced the contrast and averaged all photos. I then removed a residual background, enhanced the contrast again, cropped the photo and reduced it by a factor of 3.

M103 contains about 25 stars and I think I've captured most of them. I'd never observed M103 before, but I'm glad I did this evening. I think it is a beautiful little cluster in a interesting region of the sky. The cluster has some striking colors starting with the brighter reddish star just SW of center and the blue-white double to the NE. Unfortunately, I was a little out of practice setting up resulting in poor tracking by the telescope, so I'll probably revisit this object.



NGC 869/884 2h 21.0m +57° 08´ Perseus 4.3, 4.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 1

NGC 869 & 884 2009-12-12
"h" and "χ" Persei – The Double Cluster

2009-12-12
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the one hundred and seven best 15 s - ISO 800 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averged these in groups of nine or ten and enhanced the contrast. Next, I averaged the groups together, enhanced the contrast and removed a residual background. Lastly, I applied 5×5 Gaussian blur, cropped the photo and reduced its size by three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

A glorious sight in a small telescope with low power, impressive in binoculars and easily visible with the naked eye from a dark site, the Double Cluster is one of the most famous deep-sky objects available to all amateurs. And, obviously, I think it is worthy of a larger photograph. NGC 869, on the right, is about 7,200 l.y. distant and 60 l.y. (30´) in diameter. NGC 884, on the left, is about 7,500 l.y. distant and 70 l.y. (30´) across.


M34 2h 42.0m +42° 47´ Perseus 5.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 1, 4
m34
25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5×)
Two 22 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos were averaged and then a background field removed.
NGC 1039

This cluster is easily found near the famous naked-eye variable star Algol. Visible in binoculars as a faint smudge, viewed with a telescope using low power, M34 has about 60 stars visible. At 1,400 l.y. with an apparent angular size of 34´, its true size is approximately 14 l.y.

M45 3h 47.0m +24° 07´ Taurus 1.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 4, A2

M45 2009-12-05

Pleiades – the Seven Sisters – Subaru – the hen and her chicks – many others

2009-12-05
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
piggyback with 300 mm telephoto (12.0×)
Created from two hundred, sixty-four 15 s - ISO 1600 - f5.6 Photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averged these in groups of 11 and enhanced the contrast. Next, I averaged the groups together in groups of six, enhanced the contrast and removed a residual background. I averged these "super-groups" together, enhanced the contrast a last time and applied 13×7 Gaussian blur. Lastly, I rotated to north-up, cropped the photo and reduced its size by 3.

Undoubtedly one of the most famous if not the most famous open cluster of stars in our skies. The Pleiades have been the subject of stories, drawings and writings in almost every culture throughout recorded history. With sharp eyes, six or seven stars are evident to the naked eye (unusually good eyes have picked out a dozen or more), dozens become visible in binoculars or small telescopes and, with long exposure photographs, hundreds of members are seen along with a tenuous reflection nebula which is the result of a chance encounter as the cluster moves through space. Only the very brightests portions of that nebula are visible here.

The Pleiades are an O-B cluster of bright blue-white stars. Because the lives of such stars are short, this cluster is young, only 78 million years old, and is very close, about 380 l.y. Formally, the brightest of these stars are named for Atlas and Pleione, of Greek mythology, and their children. Their syblings, the Hyades, also exists in the sky most recognizably as the giant "V" that forms the head of the bull, Taurus.



Hyades 4h 20.0m +16° 00´ Taurus 0.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 11
hyades
Piggyback (3.0x)
This photo is an average of 20 images. The photos were grouped into sets of five. Each set was averaged, a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced. Then the results of all four sets were averaged, a residual background removed and the contrast enhanced again.
the Head of the Bull

The constellation of Taurus has been imagined as a bull in the western hemisphere throughout recorded history. Most of the easily visible stars in this constellation are part of this true cluster.

M38 5h 28.7m +35° 50´ Auriga 6.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 5

M38 2009-11-28

M38 – NGC 1912

2009-11-28
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (81.3×)
Created from the eight best 20 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat flat field from each photo, then enhance the contrast. I averged these and removed a residual background. Finally, I reduced the image's size by a factor of 3.35.

Composed of about 100 stars spread across 20´, and with two other bright open clusters, M36 and M37 nearby, M38 is part of the reason winter skies are so exciting. At a estimated distance of 2,800 l.y., M38 has an approximate diameter of 16 l.y.



M36 5h 36.1m +34° 08´ Auriga 6.0 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 5

M36 2009-11-28

M36 – NGC 1960

2009-11-28
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (81.3×)
Created from the twenty-eight best 20 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat flat field from each photo, then enhance the contrast. I averged these in groups of 10, 10 and 11. Next, I averaged the groups and removed a residual background. Finally, I reduced the image's size by a factor of 3.35.

By itself, M36 is only moderately interesting, but two other open clusters, M37 and M38, are nearby making for a fun night's viewing. M36 is a loose cluster of about 60 white and blue-white stars scattered across 12´. At a distance of 3,700 l.y., this implies a diameter of about 13 l.y.




M37 5h 52.4m +32° 33´ Auriga 5.6 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 5

M37 2010-01-13

NGC 2099

2010-01-13
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
Created from one hundred, ninety-two 15 s - ISO 800 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averged these in groups of eight and enhanced the contrast. I averaged the resulting images together in groups of eight and enhanced the contrast. I averaged the three "super-groups", enhanced the contrast, cropped the photo and reduced its size by three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

Many of M37's 150 member stars are visible in the eyepiece, but the brighter, golden star near the center always tries to capture one's attention. Its members are nicely compact and span a range of colors and brightnes. M37 is just visible by eye from a dark site and has two other beautiful open clusters, M36 and M38 nearby. For these and many other reasons, M37 has become my favorite of all open clusters. 23´ across implying a diameter of 24 l.y. given its distance of 3,600 l.y.



M35 6h 08.9m +24° 20´ Gemini 5.1 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 5

M35 and NGC 2158 2010-01-31
NGC 2168

2010-01-31
15 s - ISO 1600
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
Created from one hundred and ninety-four 15 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averged these in groups of nine and ten, enhanced the contrast and removed the residual background. Next, I averaged the resulting images together in groups of five and enhanced the contrast. I averaged the four "super-groups", enhanced the contrast, removed a residual background, applied 2×3 Gaussian blur, cropped the photo and reduced its size by three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

Although M35 is a loose grouping of stars, it can be quite attractive because a couple dozen of the its 200 member stars are easily visible in a small telescope. M35 is approximately 2,800 l.y. distant. This, coupled with an apparent angular size of 28´ implies a physical diameter of 23 l.y.

NGC 2158 appears just to the west, but is more than five times further away than M35. It's brightest star is 12.4 magnitude implying it will be a challenge for small telescopes, but might be glimpsed as a faint fuzzy glow from a dark site.


NGC 2264 6h 41.1m +09° 53´ Monoceros 3.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 11, 12
NGC 2264 2010-02-03 Christmas Tree Cluster

2010-02-03 White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
Created from one hundred and seventy 15 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averged these in groups of ten, removed a residual background and enhanced the contrast. Next, I averaged the resulting images together in two groups of six plus one group of five and enhanced the contrast. I averaged the three "super-groups", strongly enhanced the contrast, applied 5×5 Gaussian blur, rotated to north-up, cropped the photo and reduced its size by three. larger image in a new window.

The "christmas tree" is upside down with the bright star near to top forming the base of for the tree and other brighter stars outlining the tree as if with ornaments. In this case, being a loose group of about 40 stars with a wide range of brightnesses enhances this cluster's appearance, but that looseness means you'll need low magnification to see the cluster as a whole. There's plenty of nebulosity involved with this cluster. You can see part of the reflection nebula to the north-west (upper-right). Unfortunately, I could not capture any of the emission nebula which is the other source for this cluster's fame.



M41 6h 47.0m -20° 44´ Canis Major 4.5 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 19
m41
25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5×)
Four 8 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos were averaged, a flat-field removed and then the intensity was doubled which should make this photo approxmimately equivalent to a 16 sec exposure.
NGC 2287

One can see about 80 loosely concentrated stars using a small telescope. But note the brighter orangish star to the center which gives this cluster a striking accent. M41 is 1,600 l.y. away and approximately 18 l.y. (38') across. in diameter.

M46 7h 41.8m -14° 49´ Puppis 6.1 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 12, 19
m46
32.0 mm eyepiece (39.0×)
Created by averaging eighteen 20 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos. Each photo had a background removed and the contrast enhanced. These modified photos were then combined in groups of six. Again the contrast was enhance and the three "combined" images were themselves combined. That last combination, which now included all photos, was contrast enhanced and a residual background removed. The slight stretching of star images in the northwest corner is caused by the optics of the telescope near the edge of the field of view and is called coma. Move the cursor over the image to see the planetary NGC 2438 indicated and labeled.
NGC 2437

M46 is a rich but faint open cluster in the Milky Way south of Orion. It contains about 100 stars, the brightest of which is only magnitude 8.7, spanning 30'. This cluster is approximately 3,200 l.y. distant implying M46 is 24 l.y. in diameter. The brighter but poorer open cluster, M47, lies about 1.5° to the west making M46 and M47 an exciting pair to view with binocular from a dark site.

I opted to make a one-night project of M46 because in front of this cluster is the planetary nebula NGC 2438 which is just visible in this image. This planetary is a simple, faint, blue ring with an integrated photographic magnitude 10.1. The magnitude 17.5 central star is not visible in this photo. The star that appears near the center of the planetary is a backgournd star. NGC 2438 is approximately 2,900 l.y. distant, or, about 300 l.y. in front of M46.

M44 8h 40.1m +19° 59´ Cancer 3.1 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 6, 12
M44 2010-04-10
NGC 2632 – Praesepe – Beehive Cluster – Manger

2010-04-10
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the seventy-nine 10 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averged these in groups of ten. Next, I averaged the groups together, strongly enhanced the contrast and removed a residual background. Lastly, I cropped the photo and reduced its size by three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

The Beehive is visible to the naked eye from a dark site and has a long history of telescopic observations. The cluster is sparse but bright with about 50 stars visible in a small telescope. They're weakly concentrated extending across 1.7°, far beyond the field of this photo. At 580 l.y. distance, this means M44 is about 17 l.y. across. Low magnification, like binoculars, shows M44 at its best.



M67 8h 51.4m +11° 49´ Cancer 6.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 12
M67 2010-04-10
NGC 2682

2009-12-12
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the fifty-four best 10 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then averged these in groups of ten. Next, I averaged the groups together, strongly enhanced the contrast and removed a residual background. Lastly, I cropped the photo and reduced its size by three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

This open cluster has about 200 stars visible from a small telescope. M67 is about 3.8 billion years old and is one of the oldest open clusters in our galaxy. It is about 2,700 l.y. distant and 24 l.y. in diameter making it appear 30´ across.



M6 17h 40.1m -32° 13´ Scorpius 4.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 22
m6
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0x)
An average of 8 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos with a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced.
NGC 6405; Butterfly Cluster

Relax your focus just a bit and let your mind wonder and you'll see the "X" shape that reminds folks of a butterfly's wings. This naked eye object, along with M7, can be seen near the tail of Scorpius as small, faint, fuzzy blobs and has probably been known since people first started looking at the stars. M6 and M7 have long been popular with amateurs because they're close together, in an interesting region and look wonderful in a small telescope or binoculars.

M6 and M7 were recorded by Ptolemy and have been the subject of study ever since. Looking closely at the picture of M6, you'll see most of the stars appear white and, indeed, most are B type stars but a few cooler members are evident. For example, the brightest star, to the northeast (upper left), is a pale orange, 6.2 magnitude K star. There are about 80 stars in M6 and most are captured in this photo. The cluster is about 15´ across. At the estimated distance of 1,300 l.y., this implies the cluster is 6 l.y. across. We have only four stellar neighbors within 6 l.y., the Alpha Centauri triple star and Barnard's Star. Imagine having 80 stars like Sirius and Vega in our night sky.

IC 4665 17h 46.3m +05° 43´ Ophiuchus 4.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 15
IC 4665 2009-05-17 20 s - ISO 1600
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the six best photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field, enhanced the contrast of each photo. I averaged the modified photos and enhanced the contrast again. Finally I rotated to north-up, cropped the image and reduced it by 33.3%.

Probably because it is so "loose", this cluster does not appear in Messier's or the New General Catalogue (NGC), but was included in the Index Catalogue extension to the NGC.

All the brighter stars in this image are part of the cluster along with about 20 others scattered across 70´. At a distance of only 1,400 l.y., this means the IC 4665 is about 28 l.y. across. Appearing so sparse and with the brightest members only magnitude 6.8, this cluster is best observed with binoculars from a dark site.


M7 17h 53.9m -34° 49´ Scorpius 3.3 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 22
m7
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0x)
This image is an average of six 8 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos with a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced.
NGC 6475; Ptolemy's Cluster

M7 is a naked eye object, which, along with M6, can be seen near the stinger in the tail of Scorpius as small, faint, fuzzy blobs. In fact, the ancient name for these objects translates as "that which follows the sting". M6 and M7 are both popular subjects for amateurs. M7 is closer than M6 so it appears a little bigger and brighter but, in addition, M7 is physically more loosely grouped so it is a little better suited for binoculars or small telescope.

Like M6, M7 has about 80 members most of which are blue-white A and B stars. Also like M6, the brightest member is a yellowish, not white. In this case, it is a G star to the southwest (lower right) of center. M7 is only about 800 l.y. distant and, with a visible size of 80´, this means it is about 20 l.y. across.

M23 17h 56.8m -19° 01´ Sagittarius 5.5 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 15, 22
m23
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0×) An average of seven 30 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 with a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced.
NGC 6494

M23 is in our galaxy's plane in the direction of its center so this part of the sky is rich with stars. Even with so many distractions, this is an impressive and obvious group. 150 stars stars are estimated to be members and several brighter, red stars are reasonably obvious. M23 is 2,200 l.y. distant and 16 l.y. across (23´).

M24 18h 16.9m -18° 29´ Sagittarius 4.5 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 15, 16, 22
m24
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0x)
Created by averaging the four best 15 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos. Then a flat-field was removed and the contrast enhanced.
Milky Way Star Cloud; Milky Way Patch

This is "just" a section of our own galaxy ... but an amazing one. M24 is an rich, seemingly detatched star field towards the center of our galaxy. This photo does not do it justice. A truly deep photograph shows literally thousands of stars. Visible to the naked eye from a dark site, it appears larger than the Moon.

M11 18h 51.1m -6° 16´ Scutum 5.8 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 15, 16
m11
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0x)
An average of nine 20 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos with a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced.
NGC 6705, Wild Duck Cluster

Smyth claimed this open cluster looks like a flight of wild geese and the name stuck. Others described it as having a fan shape. Through the eyepiece, I would agree but it is difficult to see this shape in the photo. M11 has includes about 200 stars. It is 5,500 l.y. distant. An apparent size of 14´ means it is 22 l.y. in diameter.

M39 21h 32.2m +48° 26´ Cygnus 4.6 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 9
m39
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0x)
A combination of three 20 sec - f/2.8 - ISO 400 photos with a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced. Note that the scaling of this photograph makes the effective magnification about 33.3×.
NGC 7092

A very loosely packed open cluster of about 30 stars. M39 has a large apparent size, 32' which makes it an great object for binoculars. It is 7 l.y. in diameter at a distance of 800 l.y.

Last modified: 2010-11-04