Sky Object of the Month – February 2015

Sky Object of the Month – February 2015

NGC 1501 – Planetary Nebula in Camelopardalis

by Glenn Chaple

While Go-to technology has gained popularity with backyard astronomers who like to key their telescopes on a sky object with the push of a button, I prefer the no-frills star-hop mode of cosmic travel. Star-hopping lets me see enjoy celestial scenery I’d miss by traveling Go-to. I’ll demonstrate my point with a star-hop to the planetary nebula NGC 1501 in Camelopardalis.

Camelopardalis isn’t very kind to star-hoppers. This sprawling north circumpolar constellation contains just four stars brighter than 5th magnitude. A star-hop to any sky destination in Camelopardalis usually begins with a bright star in an adjacent constellation. To find NGC 1501, we begin at gamma (g) Persei and trace a 12o path between a pair of 4th magnitude stars to Kemble’s Cascade (refer to the finder charts below).

Kemble’s Cascade is a stunning 2 ½ o chain comprised of some 20 magnitude 7 to 9 stars. At its southwest end is the pretty open cluster NGC 1502, punctuated at the center with the eye-pleasing 7th magnitude twins that make up the double star Struve 485. A 1 ½ o push south of NGC 1502 brings us to NGC 1501. Think of it – if we’d traveled to NGC 1501 via Go-to technology, we’d have missed three delightful celestial showpieces!

NGC 1501 is a magnitude 11.5 planetary nebula located about 5000 light-years away. Its slightly oval disk, just under an arc-minute across, can be glimpsed (barely) in a 3-inch scope, but twice that aperture will be needed for a definite sighting.  With a 12-inch scope and dark-sky conditions, you should be able to make out the nebula’s bluish hue and magnitude 14.5 central star.

The first chart is from (IAU and Sky and Telescope)  

 The larger chart is from

 NGC 1502  (13.1-inch f/4.5 reflector at 166X)  Sketch by author

 Blue Photo is from  ESA/Hubble and NASA

image001 image002  image003image004

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