Saturday, January 20
Visible in binoculars and telescopes, NGC 253, known as the Silver Dollar or Silver Coin Galaxy, is a great target below beta Ceti (B) in Cetus, in the constellation Sculptor (Scl.), about 11.5 million light years away. This fine sketch by Michael Vaslov in an 8" Newtonian at 77X gives a good idea of what you can expect to see. Huge, at 27.5'x6.8' and magnitude 8.0, you'll see mottling in its spiral arms. This galaxy has lots of star formation taking place. Discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1783, while searching for comets from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Sunday, January 21
Three outstanding double stars can be easily found in Hercules as dawn approaches this morning. Alpha (64) Herculis is the brightest star in the constellation, and a fine double with an orange primary and green secondary with magnitudes of 3.5 and 5.4 companion, 4.7" separation, 410 light years away. 65 Herculis is Delta, magnitude 3.1 and 8.2, white and bluish-purple with 8.9" separation. 74 Herculis is Rho, a nice white pair at mags 4.6 and 5.6 with 4.1" separation. Give these a try and tell us what you think!
Monday, January 22
Tonight the great crater Posidonius (A) is close enough to the Terminator for excellent views. It is circular but asymmetric with inner walls, craterlets in the fractured floor and along the rim. Rimae crisscrossing the floor are amazing to view on nights of steady seeing. Use 50mm minimum. The triple craters of Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina (B) always present an interesting landscape in as small as 10X binoculars. Naked eye, you can view Mare Serenitatis (C), Mare Tranquillitatis (D), Mare Crisium (E) and Mare Fecunditatis.
Tuesday, January 23
Star hopping to a target is something of a treasure hunt. Nice views on the way, then you find the prize. NGC 6210 is a bright planetary nebula near Beta Herculis. A short hop will reveal an off-color star that with magnification, will turn into a smallish strikingly green disc. Under high magnification on a steady night you can see the sort of detail sketched here by Jeremy Perez, in the inset. Done with an 8" reflector, Jeremy shows this as a worthwhile target. At magnitude 9.3, it will stand out easily, and show detail in its 14 arc-second halo. Has anyone here observed this one?