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scarp15

Welcoming the Merope Nebula

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A seasonal recurring topic, the Pleiades in Taurus is steadily on the ascendance, low in the east late into evening. Contained within the hot blue star field are a number of prominent reflection nebulae, the brightest of which is NGC 1435 The Merope Nebula. This vast faint and diffuse nebula is also considered to potentially be a supernova remnant. It is illuminated by Merope, a blue-white sub giant variable star and is considered to be an independent interstellar cloud drifting through the cluster. Discovered in October 1859 by German astronomer, Wilhelm Temple using a 4" refractor.

I first encountered it this season, a few weeks back on a dark sky trip, it was still low in the east. As we progressively head towards the winter period, M45 will gain significantly in prominence and will be an excellent time to observe the reflection nebula. A low power wide / ultra wide field, at a dark site in atmospherically dry conditions, dark adaption, no filter, are the requirements. I understand however that a broadband UHC filter could be used on the Merope Nebula to gain some contrast if there is a little sky brightness. This is a very faint and diffuse object to observe and probably an exit pupil of at least 5mm is required. I have encountered this in both my 200mm and 350mm dobsonians, yet have so far been unsuccessful with my 85mm refractor. I think that this is due to a maximum exit pupil of 4.4mm. This season I intend to extend this using an eyepiece to enable 5.8mm and this should clinch it. 

Observing the vast expanse of the Merope Nebula and other very faint reflection nebula of the Pleiades can be one of the special highlights of the winter. 

Here is some further reading, including the very challenging small bright knot, IC 349, Barnard's Merope Nebula, one for the big dob users I think.

 https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/the-merope-nebula-and-its-well-kept-secret/

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Not caught IC 349 Iain so one for the coming weeks. Thanks for the info, clear skies.

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Iain a nice reminder. I fancy having another go with my 130P Heritage - I know that Gerry @jetstreamhas been successful with this scope so when I go to our dark outreach site I will take the Heritage as well.

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4 hours ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Iain a nice reminder. I fancy having another go with my 130P Heritage - I know that Gerry @jetstreamhas been successful with this scope so when I go to our dark outreach site I will take the Heritage as well.

I can't wait to hear of your success not only on the Merope, but the whole beautiful dark lane and glowing complex all through the Pleiades.The H130 is so good here, still baffles me honestly.Ours loves the 24 ES 68, an excellent eyepiece.

The Merope itself can take a bit more mag and something like a low scatter 20mm TV plossl or the 18mm BCO can be an asset, but the 24ES 68 is my goto. I'm not an expert but this object and its area is one of my favorite, most observed targets. It is one of the most stunning in the sky.

Good luck Mark and eagerly waiting H130 reports!

Edited by jetstream
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Last night was my first look at the Pleiades for quite some time. Through a low mag ep installed in a 130 newt I can only describe it as a bunch of diamonds in the sky.

What do I need to do or buy to see the reflection nebula? I am perfectly happy with how it looks (eye balls pop out) but if there is more to see I want to see it.

Marvin

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16 hours ago, Marvin Jenkins said:

Last night was my first look at the Pleiades for quite some time. Through a low mag ep installed in a 130 newt I can only describe it as a bunch of diamonds in the sky.

What do I need to do or buy to see the reflection nebula? I am perfectly happy with how it looks (eye balls pop out) but if there is more to see I want to see it.

Marvin

How dark are your skies? The very best thing to do is get to truly dark, transparent skies- what eyepiece did you use?

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I was able to observe the Merope nebula last night from my local dark site. I used an ES82 30mm which gives an exit pupil of 6.3mm with my 10” dob. The edge of the Merope nebula which runs parallel to the string of bright stars is the easiest to follow I find. Looking slowly from Merope to Alcyone the change in contrast as you go from the reflection nebula to black(ish) sky is normally quite noticeable. At least with a bit of practise!

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