Off the Beaten Path with Steve Gottlieb:
Deep Sky Challenges for Late Winter

Hickson 22 = NGC 1199 group
03 03 38.4 -15 36 50

The brightest member of Hickson 22 is NGC 1199, discovered by William Herschel on December 30th of 1785. John Herschel revisited the group without picking up any additional members, although Lord Rosse using the 72-inch at Birr Castle in Ireland "suspected" it to be a cluster. NGC 1199 is accessible to small scopes with a V magnitude of 11.4 and in my 17.5" appears as a moderately bright oval, oriented 4:3 SSW-NNE. The halo gradually brightens to a small bright core (recorded as stellar in my 13").

The rest of the cluster presents more of a challenge, though. Nearby are NGC 1190 4.1' SW, NGC 1191 4.6' SSW, NGC 1189 3.4' W and NGC 1192 4.0' S with integrated blue magnitudes down to 15.4. All four of these fainter members were visible in my 17.5" at 220x. Curiously, the two faintest members (NGC 1191 and NGC 1192) have redshifts nearly four times the other members, a situation found in several of the Hickson groups including Stephan's Quintet! While you're in the area look for NGC 1188 (just 8' north of NGC 1199) and NGC 1209.

Baade 1 = PK 171-25.1
03 53 29.7 +19 27 51

The first star atlas I used was Becvar's "Atlas of the Heavens" which was the precursor of the Sky Atlas 2000.0. I was intrigued by an unidentified planetary plotted about 5 degrees SSE of the Pleiades. Not knowing the magnitude I searched fruitlessly with my C-8 at the time but later found out the reason why - the visual magnitude of this 40" disc is fainter than 15.0. My first successful observation came a few years later in January of '85 with my 13" Odyssey I on a night when the fog blanketed the lights below Fremont Peak creating excellent transparency. Still this object required averted vision, a Daystar 300 filter and was only intermittently visible. I'm curious if it is visible in smaller apertures.

Palomar 2
04 46 05.8 +31 22 55

One of the tougher Palomar globulars, you'll find this object buried in Auriga, 40' west of mag 5.6 SAO 57441. All that was visible in my 17.5" from the Sierra foothills was an extremely faint glow, perhaps 1' in diameter, requiring averted vision to glimpse. Don't expect your typical globular -- even in a large scope, Palomar 2 will look like a very low surface brightness spot with a double star mag 13/14.5 just 2.3' NE. By the way, on star charting software, you may find a galaxy (MCG +05-12-1) also plotted next to Palomar 2, but this was simply a misclassification due to its similar appearance to a faint galaxy on the POSS.

ARC 539 (Abell Rich Cluster)
05 16.6 +06 28

Orion is certainly a constellation that's "off the beaten path" when it comes to observing galaxies but there are several treasures hiding here just waiting to be explored. Surprisingly, two degrees west of mag 1.6 Bellatrix (Gamma Ori) is a rich cluster of galaxies which was first catalogued by George Abell in 1957. Within a 12' circle, I identified 8 faint members 10 years back in my 17.5-inch. The centerpiece of the cluster is UGC 3274. Although given a single designation in the UGC it is actually a triple system within VV 161, an interconnected chain with a total of 5 or 6 galaxies. With careful viewing in my 17.5", I resolved two of the components of UGC 32740 as well as several other members of the chain. If you take on this challenge I'd recommend using 200-300x to resolve the cluster -- these galaxies are very small (typically 10") and could be passed over as 15th magnitude stars at lower powers.

Cederblad 62 = NGC 2163
06 07 49.5 +18 39 27

This reflection nebula has an interesting history. It was discovered by Stephan at the Marseilles Observatory in 1877-78 but in compiling the NGC, Dreyer miscopied the declination and NGC 2163 was subsequently "lost" to modern catalogues. The RNGC classifies NGC 2163 as nonexistent and even the latest version of TheSky follows suit. You'll find it listed in the Sky Catalogue 2000 and Uranometria 2000 but you'll have to search for Ced 62. On the Palomar Sky Survey, NGC 2163 is an interesting bipolar nebula with two symmetrical funnel-shaped jets extending north-south from the central star.

My last observation in January of '98 recorded a "moderately bright reflection nebula surrounding a mag 11 star and situated 3' W of a mag 9 star. The brightest portion of the nebula is noticeably elongated N-S from the central star and 2'-3' in length tapering towards the star. The northern extension has a slightly higher surface brightness. Since this is object shines by reflected light, the best view was unfiltered at 220x."

Tombaugh 1 and 2
07 00.5 -20 34
07 03.1 -20 49

This pair of open clusters was discovered on plates taken in 1937 or 1938 by Clyde Tombaugh while searching for a trans-Neptunian planet.

Tombaugh 1 consists of about two dozen stars in a triangular outline over unresolved background haze. This is a fairly large but faint group, mostly consisting of mag 14-15 stars and is situated northwest of mag 6.6 SAO 172736 and mag 7.5 SAO 172742. Just 40' SE of Tombaugh 1 you'll find Tombaugh 2.

Tombaugh 2 is a distant open cluster that appears as 2.5' diameter hazy glow with about six faint mag 14 stars resolved or superimposed along with a brighter mag 11 star at the south edge. Visually, it appears similar to a partially resolved low surface brightness globular cluster!

The "Integral Sign" Galaxy = UGC 3697
07 11.4 +71 50

As a calculus teacher, let's just say I'm naturally drawn to this object. This is a superthin galaxy with curved tips at the east and west extremities giving the appearance of a stretched "integral sign". A brighter galaxy, UGC 3714, which may be interacting is in the field 8' SE, so don't confuse these objects.

Although the photographic appearance is striking, the Integral Sign appeared visually as a very faint, extremely thin ghostly streak oriented WSW-ENE, at least 2.5'x0.3'. The surface brightness is very low and there is no significant concentration towards the center. in my 17.5". I found this object difficult at 100x but it showed up fairly well at 220x. Unfortunately, those interesting curved tips were not detected.

Abell 31 = PK 219+31.1
08 54 13.1 +08 53 59

I enjoy tracking down large, low surface brightness PNe at low power and at 970" x930", this ancient planetary bests the well-known Helix in size! Last February, I took another look from Fiddletown using a 20mm Nagler (100x) and an OIII filter and recorded a huge, faint, huge, roundish glow encompassing a mag 10 star which is southeast of center. With averted vision, the glow extended roughly 8' in diameter (not the full extent) with a very low but irregular surface brightness. The edge of the halo is not crisply defined. Search for this elusive object 30' north of a mag 7.5/8.0 double at 10" separation.