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A Deep-sky Hippity-hop through Lepus, the Hare – Sky & Telescope

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IC 418 planetary nebula
IC 418, also called the Spirograph Nebula, is a tiny however vibrant planetary nebula in Lepus, the Hare. The white dwarf at its middle streams ultraviolet gentle right into a shell of expelled gases — the star’s former environment — setting it aglow.
NASA / Hubble Heritage Staff

It is easy to disregard Lepus, the Hare. He crouches beneath Orion’s toes as if attempting not to attract consideration. Do not let him conceal from you. There’s lots to see right here in small and modest devices, together with winter’s brightest globular cluster, tasty flavors of double stars, and one of many reddest suns within the sky. Ignore Orion for an evening. As a substitute, chase the hare to see what you’ll have been lacking.

Lepus locator map
Lepus, the Hare, huddles beneath Orion’s toes. Its brightest star Arneb, also called Alpha (α) Leporis, means “hare” in Arabic.
Stellarium

In early February, Lepus culminates within the south round Eight p.m. native commonplace time. The Moon will brighten the sky later this week, however darkish skies return once more on March 2nd. My observations had been made with a 15-inch Dobsonian reflector, however all our featured objects are seen in a 6-inch reflector and a number of other in binoculars. North is up in all maps and pictures besides the place famous.

Crimson Pinpoint

R Leporis all the time will get a response. It is simply so clearly RED. And there is one thing a couple of pink star that excites the creativeness. Found by British astronomer J. R. Hind in 1845, he nailed the outline of the star as a “drop of blood on a black subject.” Positioned 1,400 light-years away, Hind’s Crimson Star is among the nearer carbon stars, a particular subset of Mira-type variable stars with atmospheres wealthy in carbon. Carbon absorbs blue gentle from the star’s spectrum, turning it a wealthy shade of pink.

R Leporis
R Leporis appears to be like like a scorching coal by way of a small telescope.
Martin Pugh

R Lep’s magnitude varies over a interval of 445 days from as vibrant as 5.5 to as faint as 11.7. Its colour adjustments, too, from deep pink round minimal (sometimes 9.5–10 magnitude) to coppery at most.

As of mid-February, the star shines round magnitude 7.Eight because it slowly sinks to minimal, making it a straightforward and colourful goal even in a Three-inch telescope. My eyes see cherry Kool-Support. How would you describe its hue? For an in depth chart and lightweight curves, go to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) web site.

Lepus double star and deep-sky map
This map shows all 13 featured objects in Lepus. Double stars are marked with a bar and stars are plotted to magnitude Eight. Click on to enlarge.
Stellarium with additions by the creator

Stars with Companions

Lepus has extra fairly, small-scope double stars than you’ll be able to shake a carrot at. A number of are vibrant, simple pairs for all telescopes, however a number of pose welcome challenges for 6-inch and bigger scopes as a result of they mix comparatively shut separations with a big magnitude distinction between the first and secondary. Save these for nights when the celebrities sit nonetheless.

Double Star PA and Separation Angle
Double stars are described by their separation in arcseconds and the place angle (P.A.) of the dimmer star with respect to the brighter star. Place angle is measured from north by way of east, regardless of the orientation of the eyepiece view.

Double star separations and place angles are present and brought from the Washington Double Star Catalog. Fundamental knowledge for every star is given in parentheses: magnitude of the first and secondary, separation, and place angle.

S473 (7 + Eight.5, 20.6″, 307°): The “S” stands for James South, a British astronomer who labored with John Herschel within the early 19th century to supply a catalog of 380 double stars, then struck out on his personal to seek out 458 extra. His #473 is a straightforward pair for small scopes with two vibrant parts and a cushty separation.

S476 (6.Three + 6.5, 39″, 19°): One in every of my favourite leporine pairs. Two white, equally vibrant pearls instantly get your consideration at low magnification — a super-easy duo in any scope. For a problem, attempt splitting them in binoculars. So long as I stored my pair of Eight×40s regular each stars had been plainly seen . . . however very shut!

Gamma (γ) Leporis (Three.6 + 6.Three, 96″, 349°): Earlier than you swing your telescope to this one, look first in binoculars. This vibrant, unequal double cleaves simply into close-set, twin jewels even at 7×. The massive separation might make you marvel if it is a true bodily pair. Certainly they’re, as each suns share a standard correct movement. At at distance of 29 light-years their true separation is about 128 billion kilometers.

The double star h3752
Michael Vlasov made these sketches of low- and high-magnification views of the triple star h3752 in Lepus.
Michael Vlasov

h3752 (AB pair — 5.Four + 6.6, Three.5″, 91° and AC pair — 5.Four + 9.Three, 60″, 104°): A beautiful triple star found by John Herschel positioned slightly greater than ½° southwest of the globular cluster M79. John acquired the small “h,” whereas doubles discovered by his father, William, bear a capital “H.”

At low magnification you may first discover the broadly separated main and tertiary, however crank up the facility to 150× and the first star undergoes celestial mitosis to develop into a stupendous, shut pair. The brightest of the three seems pale yellow, the others colorless to my eye.

h3750 (Four.7 + Eight.5, Four.zero″, 279°): Disparate magnitudes and frequent, uneven air at this declination (–25°) made this unequal double tough to divide. However with endurance and a magnification of 245× I sometimes discerned the secondary as a tiny flicker of sunshine practically due west of the first.

Beta (β) Leporis (2.9 + 7.5, 2.7″, 10°): Much more difficult than h3750, this shut pair is oh-so-satisfying in good seeing at 200× and up. The magnitude distinction is excessive, which made seeing the tiny companion star so frightfully near its good brother a second of actual observing pleasure.

Kappa (κ) Leporis (Four.Four + 6.Eight, 2.2″, 357°): Regardless of my finest efforts I could not affirm separating this shut, unequal pair. I think the two.2″ separation (measured in 2008) has since narrowed, making this an much more difficult object. Winter skies are hardly ever regular the place I dwell, however I am sure that observers with Four-inch or bigger telescopes at extra southerly latitudes will do higher. Please tell us in case you cut up it!

Deep-sky Sights

M79 (magnitude Eight.2, diameter 9.6′): Once you want a globular repair on mid-winter evenings, that is your solely simple alternative. M79 is a reasonably vibrant, very compact cluster with a dense core surrounded by an expansive halo of faint, roughly 14th magnitude suns. A single 12th magnitude star (member?) seems nearly due north of the middle. With 142× and averted imaginative and prescient the halo is properly resolved into faint stars, however the innermost core — a near-stellar, fuzzy knot — resists decision even at magnifications in extra of 300×.

Globular Cluster M79
M79 shows a compact, vibrant core inside a gangly outer halo. Search for a faint north-south chain of stars extending throughout the cluster and persevering with to the south, seen on this picture.
John Graham

M79 is among the few globular clusters seen on the alternative aspect of the sky from the galactic middle. Once you convey it to focus within the eyepiece, attempt to think about you are trying far beneath the airplane and outdoors the sting of the Milky Manner 41,000 light-years away.

Some astronomers assume our galaxy poached M79 from the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. Tidal interactions have stretched the previous dwarf into a hoop of associated star clusters (together with M79) that wraps across the Milky Manner. The best focus of stars is simply 25,000 light-years away, making the shredded dwarf the closest exterior galaxy to Earth. Quickly it should lose its id altogether because the Milky Manner slowly devours its contents. Life simply is not truthful.

NGC 2017 (magnitude 6.Four, diameter 10′): Some sources describe this object as a sparse open cluster. Others point out it could be an asterism (Star Clusters, Brent Archinal and Steven Hynes), whereas the Washington Double Star Catalog lists it because the advanced a number of star h3780! Will the true NGC 2017 please arise?

NGC 2017
The gathering of a number of stars also called NGC 2017 comprises 4 vibrant members and a number of other fainter ones. The brightest star (A) can be a double with a separate designation.
Greg Crinklaw utilizing Sky Instruments Three

I see a compact group of 4 vibrant and a number of other fainter stars in a Y-shaped association positioned 1.5° east of Third-magnitude Alpha (α) Leporis. The 4 brightest stand out boldly at low magnification in any telescope with the southernmost member showing distinctly orange. I additionally noticed two fainter magnitude-10 and -11 stars (G and I) inside the determine and a way more tough seventh star of 14th magnitude due south of A.

Observers with higher seeing and Eight-inch or bigger devices can attempt splitting the Eight.9-magnitude star labeled C within the picture. Its 9.6-magnitude companion, D, lies 1.5″ away in P.A. 356°. Desire a harder check? The brightest star, A, is a decent double with the separate designation, Bu 321. Are you able to crowbar away its 7.Eight-magnitude companion positioned simply zero.5″ at P.A. 160°?

IC 418 (magnitude 9.Three, diameter 12″): My favourite painted egg within the Lepus bunny basket. Tiny however vibrant, it appears to be like like a fuzzy, bluish star at first sight. To really respect what you are seeing, max out the magnification: 428× and 571× gave unbelievable views of the blue-tinted 10.5-magnitude central star embedded inside a pale blue ovoid tipped northwest-southeast. Some observers report that the nebula’s outer ring glows subtly pink, however I could not see this.

Sketch of IC 418
I made this sketch of IC 418 with my 15-inch at 571×. The sky-blue central star is superb. South is up.
Bob King

With averted imaginative and prescient I sometimes glimpsed a darker hole between the brilliant inside nebula and the periphery, in addition to hints of the flecked texture revealed in Hubble photos that give this planetary its nickname, the Spirograph Nebula. A spirograph is a toy used to attract a number of overlapping geometric curves known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids.

IC 418 is a comparatively younger planetary nebula about zero.Three light-years throughout positioned roughly 5,000 light-years away. Ultraviolet gentle from the white dwarf at its middle ionizes gases sloughed off beforehand by the star throughout its pink large part.

NGC 1964 (magnitude 10.Eight, measurement 5.6′ × 1.Eight′): The Hare’s brightest galaxy, NGC 1964, is positioned 1.7° southeast of Beta (β) Leporis. With a number of arms, a fats bar within the middle, and diameter of 100,000 light-years, it may nearly be a stand-in for our personal Milky Manner.

NGC 1964 spiral galaxy
NGC 1964 is a picturesque barred spiral galaxy. William Herschel was the primary to put eyes on it on November 20, 1784. The brilliant triangle of stars talked about beneath shines to the galaxy’s higher proper.
ESO / Jean-Christophe Lambry

Three 10.5-magnitude stars organized in a compact acute triangle will direct you straight to the galaxy. At 64× I instantly noticed the brilliant, near-stellar nucleus centered inside a vibrant inside disk however needed to enhance the magnification and use averted imaginative and prescient to make out the fainter outer disk extending northeast-southwest from the nucleus.

Whereas I detected no hint of spiral construction, two faint stars superimposed on the galaxy allowed for a second’s fantasy of discovering twin supernovae. A 13.5-magnitude star shines 45″ west of the core and and certainly one of 14.5 magnitude ~ 1.5′ to the northwest. Beware!

Alessi 64 (magnitude ~9, diameter 7.5′): Found by Brazilian beginner Bruno Alessi, this modest object is taken into account an open cluster candidate. I attempted however was unable to seek out many particulars about it, so it is attainable the group is an opportunity alignment of stars. However at the very least to my eye it appears to be like like the true factor. A roughly equilateral triangle of two magnitude-10.5 and one magnitude-11 star caught my eye at 64×. Extra fainter stars inside and across the determine, together with a faint, 2′-wide, smoky glow of very faint members instantly south of the triangle’s northern apex, added as much as about 25 stars in all.

Observing Alert!

Essentially the most well-known doubtlessly hazardous asteroid — 99942 Apophis — will occult the magnitude 7.zero star HD 89707 (= HIP 50671 = SAO 155919) on the evening of February 21st (February 22nd UT) seen from the U.S. between 5:45 and 5:55 UT. The star is positioned in Hydra at proper ascension 10h20m50″, declination –15°48′41″.

Apophis approaches the Earth
Gianluca Masi photographed 99942 Apophis on February 15, 2021. He invitations you to see the asteroid dwell on his Virtual Telescope site beginning at 7 p.m. Japanese Normal Time on March fifth throughout its present shut passage of Earth.
Gianluca Masi

Apophis at present has a 1 in 150,000 likelihood of crashing into the Earth in April 2068. As a result of the asteroid is barely about 370 meters throughout, the utmost period of the occultation will likely be round zero.1 second. Apophis will likely be only a 17th-magnitude speck, however it covers a Seventh-magnitude star, so a video recording ought to be capable to seize the disappearance.

The trail passes over southwest Washington State, south-central Idaho, southwestern Colorado, northern Texas, Louisiana, and the Florida Keys, simply east of Key West. For extra data together with an in depth path, go to the Unistellar web site.

Whereas a problem to watch and report, amateurs are strongly inspired to watch the occultation. Cautious timings of the disappearance and reappearance of the star from a number of places will nail down Apophis’s orbital movement. This can assist astronomers higher account for non-gravitational forces such because the Yarkovsky Effect that might have an effect on the asteroid’s future shut approaches to our planet.


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