OR: Ringing in the New Year with some deep sky observing!
by Steve Gottlieb

With clear weather on New Year's day (Friday night, 1/1/16), Carter Scholz and I headed for Lake Sonoma in the hills above the Sonoma County vineyards on Dry Creek Road. Moonrise was after 12:30, which allowed for up to 6 hrs of dark skies this time of year. As it turned out clouds rolled in at 11:45 PM, shutting us down a bit early but we still had 5 hours until clear, reasonably dark skies and seeing (fairly sharp viewing at 375x).

Mark McCarthy drove up from Fremont with his 20-inch so there were 3 visual observers as well as one or two imagers in the upper portion of the lot. Temps were in the low '30's, but it was calm and dry so the chill didn't bother me. Unfortunately, Carter forgot to bring along a piece of equipment for his homemade dob, but we observed together with my 24-inch, which was a lot of fun.

Since completing the entire NGC (visible from northern California) about a year ago, I’ve been reobserving NGC and IC galaxies that have nearby companions that were previously missed or that I wasn’t aware of. I’m also taking another look at interacting NGCs that appear to be post-merger systems with of two distinct nuclei embedded in a common halo. NGC 7774 below is a good example. I ended up logging 40 galaxies and one extragalactic globular in about 5 hours — here are the highlights.

—Steve Gottlieb   


PGC 2 = UGC 12889
00 00 01.7 +47 16 29
V = 12.6; Size 2.1'x1.7'; PA = 165d

I thought I would take a look at the first object in RA order in the PGC and that’s PGC 2 at 00h 00m 01.7s. So, what about PGC 1? Well, the precise RA is 23 59 58.8 so technically, PGC 1 is at the end of the list! At 200x; PGC 2 appeared moderately bright, fairly large, oval 3:2 N-S, 1.2'x0.8', broad concentration with a brighter core, appears to have a fairly narrow central bar as brighter along a thin spine N-S. Situated in a very busy star field with a large number of mag 11 stars. CGCG 548-023 (part of a trio with IC 1525) lies 19' SSE.

NGC 147 Hodge III
00 33 15.2 +48 27 23
V = 16.5-16.8

Hodge III is the brightest globular cluster in NGC 147 at V ˜ 16.5-16.8. Compared to the brightest globulars in M31, this one is a toughie. At 450x and 500x it occasionally popped at the same position using a detailed finder chart, but I couldn’t hold it for any length of time.

We first identified two mag 13 stars at 1' separation oriented N-S, which are situated 5' SSE of the center of NGC 147. These stars are just outside the halo of the galaxy. A mag 14.7 star is 1' further NW, forming an obtuse isosceles triangle with the two mag 13 stars. Hodge 3 is 41" N of the mag 14.7 star and nearly forms the 4th vertex of a parallelogram with these three stars.

NGC 924
02 26 46.8 +23 09 12
V = 12.7; Size 2.3'x1.3'; Surf Br = 13.7; PA = 53d

At 375x; moderately bright, oval SW-NE, 45"x30", sharply concentrated with a small bright core and quasi-stellar nucleus. The outer halo has a low surface brightness. Forms a close pair with CGCG 462-013 2.1' NE. This physical companion appeared extremely faint, low surface brightness, ~15" diameter.

IC 1802
02 29 14.0 +23 04 58
V = 13.5; Size 1.3'x1.1'; Surf Br = 13.7; PA = 120d

At 375x; IC 1802 is fairly faint, fairly small, round, 30" diameter, very small bright core. A mag 12 star is 1' NW. A faint companion (PGC 1681200) 45" ENE of center was not noticed. First in a group with IC 1803 and 1804 ~9' ENE.

IC 1803 is faint, very small, round, 15" diameter. IC 1804, 1.3' SSE of IC 1803, is fairly faint, fairly small, round, 24" diameter, small brighter nucleus, low surface brightness halo.

UGC 2272
02 48 04.4 +27 06 11
V = 13.8; Size 1.8'x0.3'; Surf Br = 13.1; PA = 65d

At 225x; fairly faint/moderately bright, very thin edge-on 6:1 SW-NE, 1'x10", slightly brighter core. Situated 2.1' NNW of mag 7.6 HD 17382 and 27' SW of mag 3.6 41 Ari.

So, what’s so special about UGC 2272? William Herschel discovered UGC 2272 on 26 Oct 1786 though he wasn't certain if it was a nebula. He recorded "A star of about 8th of 9th magnitude, with an extremely faint nebulosity about 1' north of it; but it so faint that there is a doubt whether it may not consist of 2 or 3 small stars only." His position corresponds with UGC 2272, located 2' north-northwest of mag 7.6 HD 17382 but because of the doubt he didn't assign an internal discovery number. If he was a little more confident this galaxy would have received an NGC designation.

IC 259 + IC 258
02 49 40.9 +41 03 18
V = 14.3; Size 0.7'x0.5'; Surf Br = 13.3; PA = 126d

At 375x; faint, very small, round, 15" diameter, stellar nucleus. A star (close double on the DSS) is at the northwest edge [17" from center]." Forms a close pair with slightly brighter IC 258 1.0' ESE. IC 258 is faint/fairly faint, slightly elongated N-S, 30"x24", small brighter nucleus. A mag 10 star is 1.9' ENE and interferes a bit with viewing.

Sherburne Wesley Burnham discovered IC 259, along with IC 258, on 3 Sep 1891 while observing double stars with the 36-inch refractor at Lick Observatory. He measured the offsets for both objects correctly with respect to 10th magnitude BD +40°608. But he applied his RA (time) offset in the wrong direction for the western object, which he described as double. So the computed position for IC 258 is east of IC 259, placing these objects out of RA order in the sky. As a result, the identifications of IC 258 and IC 259 are reversed in UGC, CGCG, PGC, HyperLeda, WikiSky, etc. NED has the correct identifications.

IC 304 + IC 305
03 15 01.4 +37 52 55
V = 13.8; Size 1.1'x0.7'; Surf Br = 13.4; PA = 27d

At 375x; fairly faint, elongated ~5:3 SSW-NNE, ~25"x15", slightly brighter nucleus. A mag 14 star is 30" SE and a mag 13 star is 1.2' SE. Forms a close pair with IC 305 1.4' SSE.

IC 305 is fairly faint, small, round, very small bright nucleus, compact, 15" diameter. Appears brighter (higher surface brightness) than CGCG mag of 15.7 suggests. A mag 13 star is 50" NE. This pair was also discovered by Burnham while searching for double stars with the 36-inch refractor at Lick Observatory.

IC 2005 = PGC 14168
03 57 39.5 +36 47 15
Size 0.35'x0.25'; PA = 47d

At 260x; faint, very small, round, 10" diameter, faint stellar nucleus. With averted vision the halo increases slightly to 15". This galaxy shines through the northwest section of the California Nebula!

NGC 7518
23 13 12.7 +06 19 18
V = 13.4; Size 1.4'x1.0'; Surf Br = 13.7; PA = 126d

Fairly faint/moderately bright, fairly small, slightly elongated NW-SE, 30"x24", small brighter nucleus. Forms a pair with superthin UGC 12433 (axial ratio 10:1), located 6.6' due north.

UGC 12423 appeared very faint, very thin streak at least 8:1 NW-SE, ~1.5'x10", very small brighter nucleus. The southeast extension was longer than the northwest. Situated directly between a mag 10.8 star 2.3' SW and a mag 12.7 star 1.8' NE.

NGC 7562 field
23 15 57.5 +06 41 15
V = 11.6; Size 2.2'x1.5'; Surf Br = 12.8; PA = 83d

Fairly bright, fairly large, oval 3:2 ~E-W, ~1.2'x0.8'. Sharply concentrated with a very bright core that increases to the center. The much fainter halo gradually fades out at the periphery. A mag 13.8 star is 1.8' E. NGC 7557 lies 4.6' WNW and NGC 7562A is 2.3' SSE. Two extremely faint "stars" [mag 16.3 or fainter] were glimpsed close to the position of NGC 7562A and one of these may have been the core of the galaxy as it occasionally seemed non-stellar and possibly elongated N-S.

NGC 7557 is faint to fairly faint, small, round, 0.4' diameter, weak concentration to the center. NGC 7557 lies midway between mag 9.4 SAO 128068 9' NW and mag 9.5 SAO 128073 8' SE.

NGC 7642
23 22 53.4 +01 26 34
V = 13.7; Size 0.5'x0.5'; Surf Br = 12.1

At 375x; faint/fairly faint, very small, round, 20" diameter, weak concentration to center. CGCG 380-049 lies 2.7' SE. The companion appeared very faint, very small, slightly elongated, 12"x9". A mag 15.3 star is 45" W.

NGC 7651 field
23 24 26.0 +13 58 20
V = 13.6; Size 0.7'x0.5'; PA = 100d

Fairly faint, fairly small, slightly elongated, 0.5'x0.4', very small bright core, stellar nucleus. Forms a double system with PGC 3085862 at or just off the south edge, just 20" between centers. The companion appeared very faint, extremely small, round, ~6" diameter.

Several additional galaxies are nearby (part of the southern extension of AGC 2593). PGC 71344, just 2.3' W, appeared very faint (V = 15.3), small, round, 15" diameter. 2MFGC 17581 = PGC 1445975, just 1.7' NE, also appeared very faint (V = 15.2), small, elongated WNW-ESE, 15"x10". IC 5319 lies 5.7' ENE and was noted as faint or fairly faint (V = 14.8), small, round, 18" diameter.

NGC 7653 + PGC 214955
23 24 49.3 +15 16 32
V = 12.7; Size 1.6'x1.4'; Surf Br = 13.5

At 375x; fairly faint/moderately bright, fairly small, slightly elongated N-S, 0.6'x0.5', small bright core. PGC 214955 is a challenging target 3.2' NNE. It appeared extremely faint (V = 15.6) and small, round, 6" diameter, only visible intermittently.

NGC 7774
23 52 10.7 +11 28 13
V = 13.1; Size 1.3'x1.2'; Surf Br = 13.6

NGC 7774 is a very close, merged system (15" between nuclei) and was easily seen as double at 375x. The brighter and larger component is on the west side. It appeared fairly faint, fairly small, round, ~24" diameter, contains a very small bright nucleus. PGC 93142 is attached on its east side (the glows seems virtually tangent) and appeared faint, very small, slightly elongated, 12"x9". An uncatalogued mag 11.3/12.3 pair at 8" separation is 5.7' NW. IC 1513 is 21' SE.

IC 1515 + IC 1516
23 56 03.9 -00 59 19
V = 13.5; Size 1.0'x0.8'; Surf Br = 13.2

At 375x; faint, fairly small, oval 2:1 N-S, weak concentration, 30"x15". A mag 12 star is just off the west side. Forms a pair with IC 1516 4.4' NNE.
IC 1516 appeared fairly faint or moderately bright, round, 0.6' diameter, broad concentration to a slightly brighter core.

IC 1524 + PGC 73143
23 59 10.7 -04 07 37
Size 1.7'x0.7'; PA = 84d

Moderately bright and large, oval 5:3 WSW-ENE, 50"x30", faint elongated halo. Contains a fairly bright, rounder core with either a stellar nucleus or a star superimposed near the center. A mag 14 star is 40" N of center. [Note: The DSS shows a faint star close following the core].

Forms a pair with PGC 73143 3.9' S. The companion appeared faint, fairly small, very elongated 3:1 WSW-ENE. A mag 14 star is 0.4' N of center and somewhat hides the galaxy. Many sources misidentify PGC 73143 as IC 1524.