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Observing open clusters in Puppis


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I was planning to mix eyepiece and camera-assisted observing last night but it was too gusty for the latter so I spent a very enjoyable two hours hunting for open clusters in Puppis before it sets for the season. I was using my portable setup, a Borg 77EDii at f6.6 on a Star Adventurer EQ mount sitting on a Berlebach tripod, with 13mm and 8mm eyepieces. I would have benefitted from higher magnification at times.

As I'm currently at latitude 36N I was able to start at Suhail al Muhlif (gamma Velorum) at around 6 degrees above the horizon, and work my way north taking in the many and varied clusters on route to M46 and M47 in the north of the constellation. Suhail al Muhlif is itself part of a beautiful grouping of 4 stars, and contained with the large cluster Collinder 173.  

First to a band containing 6 OCs between w Pup and rho Pup, most of which are quite faint:

NGC 2580 not seen
NGC 2567 ** glowing ball; upward pointing V of stars
NGC 2571 obvious sparse groups of a few stars
NGC 2587 only lucida (slightly red) visible
NGC 2533 lucida and one more visible
NGC 2527 *** delightful; hexagon embedded in right-angled triangle, maybe a dozen moderately bright stars

According to Crossen's Sky Vistas, which has a description of some of the Puppis OCs, NGC 2533 contains a carbon star with a B-V value of +4.3, but it was just out of reach of this scope/observer/altitude...

Then up to the top of Puppis:

NGC 2539 ** a dozen or more bright stars against a pincushion background of myriad fainter members
M47 *** appears remarkably bright after all the fainter clusters!
M46 *** as beautiful as ever; no sign of the PN; the whole is reminiscent of images of dwarf galaxies i.e. a few brighter stars against cloud of fainter stars

At this point I started to work downwards again:

NGC 2479 certain fuzziness noted; also noted a double-double lookalike between this cluster and 6 Puppis
NGC 2440 ** surprisingly obvious planetary nebulae next to bright star, with close double beneath
NGC 2431 not seen
NGC 2455 not seen
M93 ***  a flattened X of brighter members forming graceful lines
Azmidiske (Xi Puppis): *** what an amazing curve of 4 stars descending in brightness! Peachy colour
NGC 2543 3 mod-bright stars against a pale gray background
NGC 2483 5 or so popping in and out of averted vision
NGC 2489 not seen
NGC 2439 dominated by a triangle of 3 bright stars

I omitted a few clusters I'd seen a few nights back: NGC 2547, NGC 2477, NGC 2546 (in Vela), all impressive. 

I really enjoyed seeing so many contrasting types of cluster packed into a small region. These clusters vary a lot in distance and those 'not seen' corresponded with the more distant candidates, > 10000 ly. The furthest OC I was able to spot was NGC 2587 at around 8800 ly, with Collinder 173 being the closest at around 1370 ly, with M47 not far behind. Although in the plane of our galaxy, Puppis is looking outwards away from the centre, and is quite transparent in this direction. I guess the clusters stand out more against the background stars than when looking towards the centre too.

Much of this constellation is too low for many northern hemisphere observers, but if you ever get a chance in later winter or early spring to view it from these latitudes it really is full of interest. The highlight of the session for me was not a cluster but the star Azmidiske and its companions, situated very close to M93. At -25 degrees, just 8 or so lower than Sirius, this is visible from the UK and well-worth seeking out for the perfection of the configuration of the four stars. 

Martin

 

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Thanks Piero. I suspect it isn't possible with a small scope. Its just that it is so clear with a camera that I thought I'd give it a go at the eyepiece. The object I would like to search out for again is the carbon star in NGC 2533 but with varying magnitude of 11.0 to 11.7 it is really borderline for this scope. Given the gustiness and not wanting to ruin my dark adaptation I didn't slot in the camera on this occasion.

Martin

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A very nice report from an area few get a real chance to visit the latitude helping a great deal, it is fairly low for me and I imagine from some parts of the UK bearly rises.

Thanks for sharing your observations.

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Thanks all! Unfortunately today I return to a more modest (and rainy) declination of 42 degrees ;-)

StarSapling, I hope you managed some time in Puppis -- do let us know how you got on. Can you see much of Vela/Carina from your location? My hope one day is to catch Canopus which just grazes the sea horizon (with the help of refraction, possibly) in southern Spain.

Martin

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