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BinocularUniverse:HappyNewYearBinocular

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BinocularUniverse:
HappyNewYear
January2015Let'skickofftheNewYearandthefirstfullmonthofwinterbypayingacallonsome
lesserknowntargetsoftheseason.ThesubtleglowofthewinterMilkyWay,flowingsouthwardfrom
GeminithroughMonocerosandintoCanisMajor,bringsmanystarclustersthatbeckonourattention.
Someofthesearestrikingthroughbinoculars,whileothersareachallengejusttosee.

Above:WinterstarmapfromStarWatchbyPhilHarrington.

Above:Finderchartforthismonth'sBinocularUniverse.
ChartadaptedfromTouringtheUniversethroughBinocularsAtlas(TUBA)
Clickthecharttodisplayatfullsize.Chartwilldisplayinaseparatetab.

Thismonth,we'llfocusontheareatotheeastnortheastofSirius.Themostprominentobjectinthis
portionofskyisopenclusterM50.M50wasdiscoveredbyCharlesMessierinApril1772,although
historicalrecordsalsosuggestthatitmayhavebeenseenbyGiovanniCassini(ofSaturn's"Cassini's
Division"fame)around1711.TofindM50,let'suseSiriusasourstartingpoint.Viewingthroughyour
binoculars,tracealinefromSiriustoThetaCanisMajoris.FromTheta,continueonthesametrack
anequaldistancefarthertothenortheast,whereyou'llfindourquarry.Throughmostbinoculars,
M50willlooklikeasmallpatchofcelestiallint.Lookcarefully,andyoushouldspothalfadozenorso
ofthe80starsthatcallM50home.Mostappearwhite,butkeepaneyeoutforareddishstarlying
southofthecluster's.JustwestofM50,doyouseealineoffive6thand7thmagnitudestarsthat
meanderstothesoutheast?Byfollowingitalongtotheend,you'llfindapairofchallengingNGC
openclustersinthesamefield,justtotheeast.Youlikelywon'tseethematfirst,however.Infact,
bothwilllikelyrequiregiantbinocularsfordetection.Thefirst,NGC2343,shinesat7thmagnitude,
butonlymeasures7arcminutesindiameter.Fiftyfivestarscallthisclusterhome,withthebrightest
shiningat8thmagnitude.Throughmy25x100giants,theclusterisadistinctlittleknotofperhapshalf
adozenpointsinatrapezoidalpattern.Itsneighbor,NGC2335,appearsalittlelarger,butisharder
tospotowingtoitsfainterstars.Noneshinesbrighterthan10thmagnitude.Thestars'faintness
combinedwiththerichnessofthesurroundingsgiveevenmy25x100sarunfortheirmoney.Butwith
patience,itdoescomethrough.Theseclustersarenottrueneighborsinspacedespitetheir
closenessinoursky.NGC2343isestimatedtobeabout2,800lightyearsaway,whileNGC2335is
morethan3,300lightyearsfromus.Whilenotshownonthecharthere,theseclustersareengulfed
inalargecloudofglowinghydrogengasknownastheSeagullNebula.Thisisoneofthose"bright
inphotos,impossiblebyeye"objects,liketheHorseheadNebulainOrion.Thebrightestportionof

theSeagullisitshead,cataloguedasIC2177andsurroundingitsionizingstar,HD53367.Inhis
bookHiddenTreasures,authorSteveO'Meararecountshowhehasspottedthenebula"clearlywith
7x50binocularsandavertedvision."Alas,Ihavenot.CanyouduplicateSteve'sfeat?Therestofthe
surroundingregionissprawledwithfaintertuftsofnebulositythatcollectivelyremindmanyofa
seagullinflight,withwingsstretchedwide.Ifyouarefortunateenoughtobeunderdark,clearskies
thiswinter,seeifyoucanspotthefullseagull.Iftheseprovealittletootough,thenNGC2353should
restoreyourfaith.Setabout2degreesdueeastofthelasttwoclusters,NGC2353measuresabout
20'indiameterandcontains6thmagnitudeSAO152598,amonstrousbluewhitegiantstar.Therest
ofthestarsintheclusterpaleincomparison,yetsomearestillbrightenoughtoberesolvableinmy
10x50s.AllthreeclustersbelongtoaregionknownastheCanisMajorOB1Association.Here,gas
anddust,includingtheSeagullNebula,isbeingcompressedtoformnewstars.Thetriggereventthat
startedtheprocessisattributedtoasupernovaexplosionthatlikelyoccurredamillionyearsago.
SAO152598,thebeaconinNGC2353,isthebrightest,mostmassivestaryettobeborninthe
region.Next,giveNGC2345atry.Here,sharpeyedobserverswillspotasmall"tuft"ofunresolved
stardustimmediatelysouthof7thmagnitudeHD54494.Whiletheglowofthecluster's70starsis
evident,resolvingindividualsunshereprovesimpossiblethroughbinoculars.Finally,wehaveNGC
2360,lyingabout3.5degreesdueeastofGammaCanisMajoris.Thecombinedlightofthe80stars
inNGC2360isevidentthrough10x50sifyouuseavertedvision.Infact,youmightevenbeableto
justresolveacoupleofthebrighteststarsburiedwithin,sincetheyteeteron10thmagnitude.The
clusteroverallshapeappearsdistended,orientedeastwest.Asyoucanseeonthechartaboveand
thelistbelow,thereareplentyofothertargetsinthisareatochallengeusandourbinoculars.How
manycanyousee?Andifyouneedarespitefromchallenges,enjoythebeautyofM47,justalong
theeasternedgeofthismonth'sBinocularUniverse,andM46furthereaststill.Theyvividly
demonstratejusthowdifferentopenclusterscanbe.Ifyouwishtolearnmoreaboutthisoddcouple,
bothwerefeaturedinthiscolumnbackinMarch2012.