TELESCOPIC HIGHLIGHTS


The Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888) is rather large but dim requiring an O III or a H-Alpha filter to see it. It is an emission nebula which means it radiates light primarily from hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur gas energized by a Wolf-Rayet star. Wolf-Rayet stars are massive. The one lighting up the Crescent Nebula (WR 136) is 15 times more massive than the Sun. Mass is the name of the game when it comes to a star's life. The more massive it is, the quicker it fuses its nuclear fuel, the hotter it gets, the shorter its life, and the more violent it is. It's a star on cosmic steroids! The most spectacular thing about this star is it may be a binary star system with a close by low mass dwarf companion adding a "twist" to its destructive nature. WR 136 is running into its own past as its increasingly violent outbursts  plow through waves of previous eruptions that it ejected over thousands of years. This kind of behavior can't go on much longer. In less than a million years , WR 136 will self destruct in a brilliant Type 2 Supernova. Thankfully, it is far enough away so it won't affect Earth when it goes out in a blaze of glory!
M30 (NGC 7099) is a globular cluster located in the dual triangle shaped pattern of dim stars known as Capricornus the She Goat. I suppose the triangles are supposed to represent udders, but it would require quite an imagination notwithstanding the fact that there are no stars brighter than magnitude 3 and most are too dim to see to display any contrast with surrounding stars. If it weren't for the fact that Capricornus is one of the Signs of the Zodiac and it was used to define the Sun's location at the Winter Solstice, it probably would go unnoticed. Back to M30. This globular cluster is in a retrograde orbit around the center of our galaxy which implies it was "stolen" from another lesser galaxy that the Milky Way absorbed many billions of years ago. Like all globulars, this cluster is very old...close to 13 billion years...not very long after the Big Bang.
Found in another dim meandering constellation called Draco the Dragon, the colorful and complex Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) is a planetary nebula with a shape resembling the eye of our feline friend. It's bright blue-green core (20 arc seconds in diameter) is probably all you can see at the high power eyepiece of a typical backyard telescope. It takes a time exposure through a camera to bring out more detail and color in this enigmatic nebula.
Seems like the dimmer the constellation, the more hyper its mythology. Aries the Ram is connected with the ancient Greek myth about Jason and the Argonauts. Jason and his crew underwent many adventures and challenges while seeking their goal to find the Golden Fleece (from Aries the Ram). It also marks a location along the Zodiac or Ecliptic lending to its value as an astrological birth sign. For as small and obscure as Aries is, it showcases a rather bizarre irregularly shaped spiral galaxy, NGC 772. The odd shape is due to gravitational interaction with a close by elliptical galaxy companion (NGC 770). Since it's 130 million light years distant, NGC 772 shines at magnitude 10 so you'll need your trusty astronomical camera to image it. Most astro cameras in the $500+ range will be sensitive enough to display the large graceful and misshapen single spiral arm curving out of this galaxy's central bulge core.
I generally don't repeat telescopic highlights, but if you're like me, you've probably had some difficulty seeing all the objects I talked about in October because of weather or personal time constraints. So, I've included the same list for November as well. Don't forget to have another look at two old favorites, The Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). Both of these large relatively close by galaxies will be near the zenith during normal observing hours (7-10 PM) and thus will yield the best possible image resolution potential for the year.