Archive for February 2020

NGC 3877 – Galaxy In Ursa Major: April 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report #135

February 28, 2020


Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


Sue French, New York 

April 2020

Report #135

NGC 3877 Galaxy in Ursa Major  

“Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together”



April Observer’s Challenge Report:


James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

     NGC 3877 is an 11th magnitude spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. To find the galaxy start at the star Megrez, the star where the handle of the Big Dipper connects to the cup.  Follow an arcing line from Megrez through Phecda (bottom star in cup below Megrez) curving south to the third magnitude star El Kaphrah.  The three stars are close to equally spaced with El Kaphrah a tad dimmer than Megrez.  NGC 3877 is a mere 17 arc minutes directly south of El Kaphrah, making it one of the easiest 11th magnitude galaxies to find star hopping.

     NGC 3877 is a nearly edge on spiral galaxy 5.4 arc minutes long and 1.2 arc minutes wide. The galaxy is classified Sc, which means is has a very small core surrounded by whirling spiral arms.  William Herschel discovered NGC 3877 in the year 1788 using his 18.7-inch Newtonian.

     Through an 8-inch telescope the galaxy looks cigar shaped with a bright stellar-looking core.  No detail can be seen in the spiral arms. 

     I imaged NGC 3877 with an 8-inch f/8 Ritchey–Chrétien Cassegrain (with a Televue 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener yielding f/6.4) using an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera.  The exposure was 180 minutes.

     To image this galaxy with a reflector is tricky because if you don’t get the star El Kaphrah out of the field, the required exposure to pick up the galaxy would cause the star to drown out the image.  In my image the bright star near the top of the image is 8th magnitude SAO43884.  El Kaphrah is outside of the field of view straight above (north) of the galaxy.  During my three-hour exposure, ghost reflections of El Kaphrah appeared on the image as well as two bright diffraction spikes from my secondary mirror spider.  I removed those from the final image.

     About 5 arc minutes to the northwest of the core (upper right) lies a magnitude 9.9 star with four diffraction spikes. Just below this star is a magnitude 16.7 star that is very red in color.  Just at the edge of the lower right diffraction spike is an even very fainted red star shining at magnitude 17.7.  This is one of the faintest stars in the image

     The image picks up the tightly wound spiral arms of the galaxy. In between the arms are several dark dust lanes.  The three stars that appear on the outskirts of the galaxy are Milky Way foreground stars.



Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

Taken last night (March 27-28) through 32-inch telescope.  Five min subs, total 60 minutes integration time. 

Camera is my new ZWO ASI6200.   Processed in PixInsight.   



Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina 

Telescope:  10-inch f/4.5 reflector:  Date: February 22, 2020  

NGC 3877:  Dim slash with very low surface brightness, oriented NE-SW with a subtle brightening in the central region along the highly elongated core.  The galaxy arms show some mottling and uneven texture.  

Pencil sketch:  5 x 8 blank note card with the colors inverted:  



Sue French:  Observer from New York

4-18-2020, 10-inch f/5.9 Newtonian, Seeing: fair. Transparency: good. Gusty wind.

43×: NGC 3877 appears highly elongated and grows gently brighter toward the center.

187×: Sketch. The galaxy grows longer with averted vision, and it harbors an elongated core.



Glenn Chaple:  Observer from Massachusetts 

The best star-hops are those that require no hopping at all. Such is the case with this month’s Observer’s Challenge, the near edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 3877. Center the magnitude 3.7 star Chi (χ) Ursae Majoris in the field of your scope’s finder and then peer into the eyepiece.  If your eye is properly dark-adapted, you should see an oval haze just ¼ degree to the south.

In March of 1998, a supernova appeared in NGC 3877, quickly reaching 12th magnitude.  It was visible in my 4-inch f/4 rich-field reflector (Edmund Scientific’s Astroscan), as was the galaxy itself.  To see NGC 3877 with such a small aperture demands dark-sky conditions.  In Vol. 2 of The Night Sky Observer’s Guide, authors George Kepple and Glen Sanner note that an 8 to 10-inch scope will reveal the galaxy’s central condensation, while scopes with twice the aperture should bring out the mottled appearance of its outer regions.

NGC 3877 was discovered by William Herschel on the night of February 5, 1788. Along with M109, it belongs to the Ursa Major Galaxy Cluster.  Its distance is variously recorded as 42 to 50 million light years.  If at the latter distance, NGC 3877 would span some 80,000 light-years.

Finder charts for NGC 3877 below.  Bright star in right-hand chart (from AAVSO Variable Star Plotter) is Chi (χ) UMa. Numbers refer to magnitudes of field stars. North is up in this 25′ by 30′ field.



NGC 3877 and supernova 1998S, March 25, 1998. Magnification 74× FOV 20. North is to the right.  Sketch by Glenn Chaple (ATMoB)


Uwe Glahn:  Observer from Germany 

Object: NGC 3877

Telescope: 27-inch f/4.2 Newtonian 

Magnifications: 293x – 488x

Filter: /

Bedingungen: fst 6m5+

Seeing: III

Ort: Sudelfeld

Pencil Sketch with the colors inverted.



Gus Johnson:  Observer from Maryland 

April 1998:  6-inch @ 118x with a first quarter moon.  Highly elongated with a bright core.  When observing with an 8-inch reflector @ 116x, the galaxy appears much brighter than the 6-inch, as to be expected.  However, mottling and unevenness could now be seen in the arms.  


Mike McCabe:  Observer from Massachusetts

NCG 3877 is a type Sc spiral galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major and shines at about mag. 12 with a surface brightness somewhere north of mag. 13.  

The galaxy is very easy to find due to its close proximity to the bright star Chi Ursae Majoris, which at mag. 3.7 and located very near the Big Dipper asterism, is easily seen naked eye.

I viewed 3877 on the evening of April 15th, formally known as “Tax Day” in the USA.  The sky was clear with a transparency rating of 3/5, and the seeing was less than optimal with a rating of 2/5.  The temperature was a comfortable 44º F and the wind was calm.  It was quite pleasant for observing.  It should be noted for the record, this observation was made during the peak of the Covid-19 World Pandemic.  Observing alone in one’s yard is a stark contrast to the chaotic situation that the world is enduring at this time, the severity of which is astounding.  Appreciation for being able to still do something enjoyable was not lost on this observer.  

A 10-inch Newtonian reflector was used to make this observation.  At 139x with a 0.43º true FOV, Chi Ursa Majoris easily fit into the field with 3877, making for an interesting view.  Between the brightness of Chi and the dimmest star seen near the galaxy at mag. 13.3, there was a nearly ten magnitude difference in brightness throughout.  But once again the human eye proved up to the task of accommodating the huge dynamic range, something that no camera is capable of doing! 

NGC 3877 appeared as a dim slash, clearly longer than its width, and oriented NE/SW.  No structure, mottling, or brightness variations were noted.  It looked like a little cigar in the view.  

NGC3877 McCabe


Carl Bellitti:  Observer from Massachusetts 

I am a new member of the South Shore Astronomical Society.  I have an EAA setup and still learning the ropes.  A fellow member informed us of the challenge, so I decided to give it a shot.  I have attached an image.

My notes are as following:  

Location: Hanover, MA

Seeing: 3/5

Transparency: 4/5

Bortle: ~5

Time: 9:30 EST

Telescope: 6-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with f/6.3 focal reducer

Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T5, 1200D (unmodded)

Exposures: (6) x 30″ live stacked


  • Bright Center clearly visible
  • Galaxy is nearly on it’s edge but probably skewed a bit.  (Somewhat Similar to M82)
  • Alkaphrah is clearly visible and dominates the shot, but adds interest.
  • I had set my expectations low, but results exceeded them.              
  • Image as following:  North is to the left, and West is up.  



Rony De Laet: Observer from Belgium

Telescope: 10-inch f/5 truss Dobsonian 

I had never before observed this galaxy. So I didn’t know what to expect. I used the Stellarium app on my smartphone to locate this object. It is something that I started using since last year. I can switch my phone to the red night mode and dim the screen.  It works really well to preserve my night vision. I point my red dot finder to the nearest star that’s visible with the naked eye and then I use my phone to star hop from star to object with my lowest power eyepiece. Stellarium pointed me towards Chi Uma.  That shouldn’t be a difficult search.  I switched off the phone and centered Chi Uma in the eyepiece of my 10-inch truss dob. Now what? Where’s the galaxy? Back to Stellarium for another look. It turned out that Chi is a perfect beacon but also a blazing lighthouse in a 24mm eyepiece at 53x. 

I swept over the galaxy’s location without noticing it. Once I knew what to look for, I could detect the galaxy’s dim glow. With 91x, Chi was still present in the fov. And it ruined my night vision once again. Time for a higher magnification. 

With 144x, I could finally separate NGC 3877 from its pesky beacon. I prefer to slowly sweep my target through the fov.  It triggers my dark adapted retina. 

With Chi Uma staying around, it would be useless. I found the best view at 211x. It allowed me to study the core and nucleus of the galaxy in detail. The nucleus appeared not stellar, but rather elongated in the same position angle as the elongated halo. I noticed a small dark arc between the SE-side of the nucleus and the core. Maybe a dust band? The core tappers towards the bar shaped halo. Its SW tip continues as if it forms a spiral arm? The elongated halo doesn’t seem to be symmetrically shaped. I returned to 144x to study the halo’s edges. The NW curved long edge of the halo appears darkened where it nears the nucleus. The SE long edge of the halo is more developed. 

The sketch is based on observations over two nights from my backyard. The nelm was mag 5.2. I observed NGC3877 for about an hour and a half in total. The first night I tried to sketch as much detail as I could. The second night, I returned to the galaxy to check the details of the first encounter. Second visits produce more accurate observations. 

The sketch is a digital reproduction of a raw pencil sketch behind the eyepiece. 

The field of view is 20 arc minutes.  

North is up and West to the right:



Chris Elledge:  Observer from Massachusetts

On February 22nd @11:25pm EST, I used a 10-inch f/5 refractor to observe NGC 3877 from the ATMoB Clubhouse. Sky conditions were: Bortle Scale 6; NELM 5.0; Transparency: Average; Seeing: Average. 

NGC 3877 is easy to locate at just 17′ from Al Kaphrah.  At 36x (35mm) there are 4 mag. 8 to 10 stars near Al Kaphrah that form two parallel lines NW to SE lines.  The NW stars of each form a line together with Al Kaphrah in the NE to SW direction.  The SW line of HD102158 and BD+48-1965 point SE to NGC3877 a short 4′ away.  The galaxy looks like a short line with averted vision. It has a NE to SW orientation.

At 115x (11mm) the galaxy is still only visible with averted vision with a NE to SW orientation. The apparent length of the galaxy is slightly shorter than the distance from the galaxy center to nearby BD+48-1965.  There are several 13 mag. stars around the galaxy.  One to the East, one to the NNE, and two to NW just past BD+48-1965

At 270x (4.7mm) the galaxy is very faint but still visible with averted vision.  It is more difficult to determine the length at this magnification.  The core of the galaxy is slightly brighter than the extremities.  I get fleeting moments of seeing a dark lane across the length of the SW side of the galaxy.


Venu Venugopal:  Observer from Massachusetts 

Image taken on 4/12/2020 from Chelmsford, MA backyard of my house.  

Exposure – 20 minutes. 8-inch reflector, GEM45, ZWO533MC, 8 second subs stacked in SharpCap.

Spiral galaxy with Radial Velocity/Redshift at 902 km/s. 11.8 (mag).  Discovered by William Herschel on February 5, 1788.  Supernova 1998S occurred in NGC 3877 and reached an apparent brightness of magnitude 12.1, thus competing with the entire galaxy 

Hope to get a better view when we get another clear night.  




Joseph Rothchild:  Observer from Massachusetts 

I observed NGC 3877 twice from dark skies on Cape Cod (3/21 and 4/22), although the second observation on April 22nd was hampered by 20 mph winds.  

I observed with my 10-inch reflector at 89x.  The galaxy is easy to find near the bright star Al Kaphran in Ursa Major.  It is best seen with the star just out of the field. The galaxy is faint, uniform and spindle shaped with 3-4:1 ratio.  I was unable to see any internal structure in either observation.  


Richard Nugent:  Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 3877, galaxy in Ursa Majoris. 

     I had high hopes for this one because it appears to be prominent on Sky Safari 6 Pro.  

     On 29 Feb I was able to observe this galaxy using the ATMoB 25-inch Dob. The galaxy was easily visible at 278x and appeared as a diffuse, elongated glow. Very pretty!

     During an observing session in mid-March using my 20-inch, the galaxy was barely visible at mid to high powers. It was not visible at my lowest power (120x) but the sky’s NELM that evening was a typical (For Framingham, MA) magnitude 4.8 at best.

     On 29 Mar, using my 10-inch Dob, I could just detect the object at 250x while shielding my eyes from extraneous light and using averted vision.  A darker sky is necessary. 

     I had a remarkably good night on 16 April with a NELM of 5.1 and was using my 10-inch scope once again.  This time I successfully observed this galaxy as a faint but easily discernible oval of light.  I was quite surprised but pleased that I could see it! The best view came at 200x.

     The galaxy was not visible on 22 Apr with the 10-inch under a 4.9 magnitude sky.  Of course while using a large Dobsonian I was not surprised to see the galaxy so well.  Getting down to a more typical-sized telescope, it would seem that the key to successfully observing this galaxy is to view it, of course, under dark skies.


John Bishop:  Observer from Massachusetts.  

     I observed NGC 3877 on 4/11/20 and 4/16/20  from a site in Plymouth, MA.  Both nights were clear, with good transparency.  Seeing was fair, with a noticeable breeze diminishing over the course of both evenings.  Temperature on both nights was in the 40s F. at sunset, dropping into the 30s F. by 11:30 pm.  John Bishop:   

    I was using an 8.25-inch f/11.5 reflector at 48x, 100x, and 193x.

    NGC 3877 was fairly easy to locate. It lies close to Chi Ursa Majoris. At 48x, with Chi UM to one side of the FOV, I saw an obviously elongated hazy patch with a slight brightening in the center. This was NGC 3877.  Increased magnification confirmed the elongated cigar shape.  The bright center was itself slightly elongated, and not very concentrated. 

    At 193x, there was more to see, but the image became less steady.  The image cycled in and out of steady focus. (I assume this was the atmosphere at work).  At steady moments, the galaxy was bigger and brighter, but the surface was not as uniformly bright.  I saw a dark lane cutting at an angle across the arms on the NE side of the core.  The image was soft, but the dark lane was definitely there. 

     After the observing session, I looked at images of NGC 3877 online.  Several images (including nice images by Mario Motta and James Dire) show the dark lane that I observed.  That was cool!

     First time for me observing this interesting object, which lies in a region full of many other interesting objects.




NGC 2859 – Galaxy in Leo Minor: March 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report

February 27, 2020


Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


Sue French, New York

March 2020

Report #134

NGC 2859 Galaxy in Leo Minor

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together


The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes, and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

NGC 2859

NGC 2859 is a double-barred galaxy with an external ring that may be the remains of spiral arms that slowly detached themselves from the galaxy’s interior. Easier to observe, the central region is mostly spanned by a SSE to NNW bar with arcs capping each end, thus giving it a somewhat dumbbell-like appearance. NGC 2859 also hosts a small nuclear bar, nearly perpendicular to the first. The most current measurement places this galaxy at a distance of 93 ± 7 millon light-years.

William Herschel discovered NGC 2859 in 1786. His journal entry reads, “Very bright, much brighter in the middle, round, the brightness confined to a small place; the chevelure extending to about 3′ diameter.” 

Complete Observer’s Challenge Report Link as following:



Dale Holt: Observer from England, 30 miles north of London


Dale introduces himself to challenge participants and readers:  

I use a 505mm f/3.74 Newtonian on a fork mount and an old analogue Watec 120N+ deep sky video camera with custom cooling. The camera is B&W and delivers its image in near real time, typically 15 sec exposure to a CRT monitor in my observatory office where I sketch from the screen. Most commonly I used graphite pencil on sketch paper although sometimes I use white on black hard pastels where the object is nebulous. Post drawing I scan the image and invert using paint. Limiting magnitude of my set up is around 19-20th mag.

I have given many talks over the past 15+ years in the UK on the amazing benefits of video astronomy, which is allowing successful observing in light polluted environments and also the relative increase in the punching power of your scope.










Uwe Glahn:  Observer from Germany 

Telescope: 27-inch  f /4.2 Newtonian Reflector

Magnification: 172x and 293x

NELM 6.5 +

Seeing: IV

Location: Rossfeld

Pencil sketch as following:



Michael Brown:  Observer from Massachusetts 

I photographed NGC 2859 on March 17, 2020.  The photo through my 8-inch SCT at f/6.3 had a total exposure of 16.5 minutes (33 images, each with 30-second exposure).  Given my modest astrophotography capabilities, the photo is imperfect and not spectacular.  Nevertheless, I am excited to have recorded an image of a galaxy that is over 80 million light-years distant and quite dim (magnitude 12.1 according to my Burnham’s Celestial Handbook).  Furthermore, several of the major features are visible, if only faintly in some cases.  This includes the bright core, the bar, the halo of stars that appears like a bubble around the bar and core, and finally, very faintly, the outer ring of stars (it’s definitely there!).  

On the night I took the images, I could see the galaxy visually, but did not spend much time on direct viewing.  I returned for more detailed visual observation on March 21.  

I found NGC 2859 easy to spot, forming a triangle with two stars in the same field, with the galaxy at a corner with an obtuse angle.  The galaxy appeared small with a stellar-like core.  There was clearly a hint of an extended halo or “nebulosity” surrounding the core.  I could not see the bar or the outer ring.

North is to the left, and west is up: 

NGC2859c Cropped


Sue French:  Observer From New York 

254/1494mm (10-inch f/5.8) Newtonian. Seeing: below average. Transparency: good. 

I logged this galaxy a couple times in the past, in 1983 and 2003. My only sketch of the galaxy was made for this Observer’s Challenge on 3-21-20.

At 43×, NGC 2859 was a faint, roundish glow near a yellow-orange, 7th-magnitude star. It was an easy star-hop 41 arcminutes E×N from orange Alpha (α) Lyncis.

A magnification of 115× showed a tiny, very bright nucleus; a small, bright core; and a faint halo.

The sketch was made from the view at 299×. To me, the core plus its bar looked somewhat like a spiral galaxy seen edge-on. This structure was enwrapped in a fainter halo spanning about 1½ arcminutes. There was no sign of the galaxy’s outer ring.

Alan and I took a look at C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) after I was done. It was a large, pretty bright, diffuse glow — maybe a little brighter in the center.



Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

A very interesting galaxy!   Imaged with my 32-inch, total 1 hour imaging time, SBIG 1001E camera.

This galaxy has a “ansae” type bar (which gets brighter at the tips of the bar) and an inner ring, no defined spiral structure, and a detached outer ring. 83 million light-years away, Leo Minor.

Fascinating object, you choose these objects very well, enjoy getting them.



James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

NGC 2859 is a rare barred lenticular galaxy located on the southwest edge of the constellation Leo Minor.  The closest bright star is Alpha Lyncis.  The galaxy can be found 40 arcminutes east and 7 arcminutes north of this 3rd magnitude star.  The galaxy shines at magnitude 10.89 and is face-on measuring 4.6 x 4.1 arcminutes in size.

Barred lenticular galaxies like NGC 2859 are disk galaxies with no spiral arms.  The bars in these types of galaxies tend to be brighter at their edges. The bar in NGC 2859 is close to being due north-south as it is tilted only a few degrees to the west on the north side and east on the south side.  The galaxy also has a very faint detached ring beyond the disk containing the bar.  The galaxy’s core is quite bright compared to the rest of the galaxy.  The bar should be visible in 10 to 12-inch telescopes. The faint outer ring is beyond amateur telescopes visually and not counted in the quoted angular size of the galaxy.

I only managed to get one two-hour exposure of NGC 2859 this month due to an unusually cloudy winter here in Central Illinois.  The image was taken with an 8-inch f/8 Ritchey–Chrétien Cassegrain (with an 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener yielding f/6.4) with a SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. I stretched the pixels containing the galaxy’s outer, detached ring, more than the rest of the image to make it more apparent. The bright star to the right of the galaxy is magnitude 7.2 SAO61446.  The other bright star, near the bottom of the image, is SAO61457 shining at magnitude 7.7.  

The yellow arrows show three very small faint galaxies captured in the same field of view as NGC 2859.  The one near the top is PGC26663, a magnitude 15.6 galaxy. To its right is magnitude 16.6 PGC3529815.  The third faint galaxy is PGC2048993, which is magnitude 17.6. This third galaxy appears to be an edge on spiral galaxy which appears brighter than the other two because its light is concentrated on a much smaller area.



Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina 

Date: February 21, 2020

Telescope:  10-inch f/4.5 reflector

NELM:  4.9 

Very small, fairly bright, easy to locate and see at 57×.  When increasing the magnification to 208×, this galaxy is elongated, oriented NNW-SSE, however very subtle.  The core is much brighter than the outer round halo, which I could not see.

Pencil sketch:  5 × 8 blank note card with inverted colors.



Mike McCabe:  Observer from Massachusetts

On Saturday evening, March 21st, 2020 I was able to view NGC 2859, a barred lenticular galaxy located 83 million light-years away in the constellation Leo Minor. The conditions on this evening were quite good for these parts, with the air temperature hovering around 30ºF, the transparency being at least 3/5, and the seeing around 2/5. I used a 10″ f/5 Newtonian telescope on a dob-style mount for this observation.

Finding the galaxy was a very straightforward process, as it fit into the 42× low power view with the naked-eye bright star Alpha Lyncis. The galaxy was clearly non-stellar at low power with a very bright core, but the nebulosity was not very evident.

Boosting up the magnification to 104× brought out a lot more nebulosity around the core, and that’s where I stopped to make my sketch. The galaxy itself was small and unremarkable, and I wasn’t able to get any sense of the orientation of it with regards to any elongation or direction of the bar.

Additionally, the star field took on an attractive aspect in the sense that it distinctly resembled an oversized version of Messier 29, the ‘cooling tower’ cluster in the constellation Cygnus.



Joseph Rothchild:  Observer from Massachusetts

I observed galaxy NGC 2859 twice from dark skies in Cape Cod.  It was easy to locate with my 10-inch reflector near alpha Lynxis and 2 stars HD 80966 and HD 81057.  It was small faint, round, and with a stellar core.  There was no visible structure other than the core.

I observed it the same night as Comet Atlas C/2019 Y4.  NGC 2859 had a similar appearance to the comet, but the galaxy was fainter and much smaller.


Richard Nugent:  Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 2859 is a nearly 11th magnitude galaxy in Leo Minor. The galaxy is relatively easy to find. I moved  just 2/3 of a degree East of Alpha Lyncis to a pair of orange, 7th magnitude stars, HD80966 and HD81057.  

This galaxy lies just six arcminutes, a little south of East from HD80966.  NGC 2859 is fairly small, being 3 x 3 arcminutes and has a surface brightness of 14.0.  

I observed this month’s object from Framingham, MA (NELM is typically magnitude 4.8) using my 10 and 20-inch reflectors. Also, from the ATMoB site in Westford, MA (NELM overhead is around magnitude 5.1) using the club’s 25-inch telescope.  

The 10-inch scope showed the galaxy at medium and high magnifications.  At low power (50x) the galaxy was very difficult.  With the higher magnifications, it appeared as a small, round, diffuse glow that was brighter in the middle.  I couldn’t see any structure in the galaxy nor the outer ring, as seen in images.

The 20 and 25-inch scopes showed the galaxy better and of course, brighter but I still could not see any of the details visible in images.

All-in-all this is an easy galaxy to find and observe. While not particularly an impressive galaxy, you may still want to put on your yearly, March observing list.


Gary Shaw:  Observer from Massachusetts

Well my humble scope and I were both challenged by NGC 2859. We expected to see the galactic central as a blur – perhaps with highlights at opposing ends indicating the ansae brightening. But instead, we saw a stronger brightening at the ends than expected and saw no ‘bar’ to speak of. When I zoomed way in on the image, I could barely make out a faint bar shape crossing the “gaps” seen between the galactic center and the brightened NW and SE ends of the bar. 

Since capturing the attached image, I’ve had “first light” with a 200mm f/4 Newtonian and will give ole NGC 2859 another try. 

I’ve attached a wide field view and a little watercolor sketch which needs more work than the original observation did. I’m still in awe of everyone’s lovely pencil/charcoal sketches but I’m determined that by the end of 2020, I’ll have found a way to better capture the subtlety of these incredible objects in watercolor. 

I look forward to the April object. 

NGC 2859 Zoom

NGC 2859


John Bishop:  Observer from Massachusetts

Here is a summary of my efforts to see galaxy NGC 2859….

This month was a good news-bad news experience. The good news was that two clear nights would emerge for observing during the new moon period. The bad news was that, for entirely different reasons, I didn’t see NGC 2859 on either night.

On 3/21/20, I attempted to observe NGC 2859 from the ATMoB Clubhouse in Westford, MA.  The sky was clear; transparency and seeing were decent.  Instead of using my usual 8.25 inch reflector, but for a change of pace I decided to observe with my 5-inch f/8.1 apochromatic refractor.  It has a big heavy mount and tripod.  Perhaps you can guess why I don’t take it out much anymore.

Well, I got a reminder that aperture matters.  As hard as I tried, I could not see NGC 2859 through the 5-inch at any magnification…34x, 57x, 83x, and 138x. 

I understood the object to be somewhat stellar in appearance, but I could not tease out nebulosity around any of the objects in the field. The Apo’s optics are sharp, but that wasn’t enough. The reported surface brightness (Luginbuhl) is beyond the magnitude limit of the 5-inch.  However, the visual brightness is listed as mag. 10.7, so I thought I should be able to see it.  Frustrating!  

In consolation, I did see Comet PanSTARRS.  It was faint and nebulous. It looked like a classic Messier object. To locate the comet, I used a very interesting triple star, Iota Cassiopeia, as a reference point.  One of the components is much dimmer and  smaller than the others.  At least the Apo refractor had no trouble separating the trio.

Slightly mortified by my failure to locate NGC 2859, I made plans to go to the Clubhouse on 3/27/20 with my 8.25-inch reflector and find the object.  It was a clear, steady night.  Ideal, except more terrestrial concerns intervened. 

MIT, which owns the ATMoB Clubhouse, issued a directive prohibiting use of the Clubhouse and observing field until further notice, due to concerns over the coronavirus epidemic.  Especially frustrating, because at the moment I do not have another deep-sky observing site. 

This object may get away until next year.


Derek Lowe:  Observer from Massachusetts

We had a couple of clear nights, so I made sure to get out with the 18-inch Dob. The local police came by the field that I had set up in, and agreed with me that you can’t get much more socially distanced, and wished me a good evening.

So to galaxy, NGC 2859. 

I had logged this galaxy several years ago with my 11-inch Dob, and at the time noted that it was easily visible and appeared perfectly round like an unfocused star. I noted a concentrated core and coma, but no particular structure.  

This time around, I could see that the core took up some angular diameter of its own, and that the coma around it extended out further than was first apparent. This took a number of averted-vision passes – direct vision still gave just a fuzzball.  I certainly didn’t see any darkness separating the coma from the core, since the outermost part was quite faint.  What looked like the entire core in a quicker observation back with the 11-inch turned out out to be a brighter point in a round brightness of its own. 

Spending more time on the core itself, I could just barely make out the bar as a sort of brighter vertical streak the exact size of the “inner coma”.  This wasn’t easy to pick out, but every few tries it came into view.  A good example of an object that has a lot to see, once you know that it’s worth spending the time to dig them out!