The marvel that Messier missed

Location of open cluster NGC 7789Last night was another fine one at Kelling Heath with clear skies from horizon to horizon. It was also a night when I made a great discovery, albeit a personal one rather than a contribution to astronomy such as a new comet.

Visiting Gain once more, we ran through a few celestial favourites once again. Then he asked me to take a look at his favourite open cluster in the sky. Through his 18-inch Dobsonian telescope, it was a dazzling sight with the field packed with bright stars. As someone else here said, like looking down on the lights of a big city at night.

I turned my own 10×50 binoculars on the area of sky, close to the well known W shape of Cassiopeia, and I was amazed to see it shining as a bright nebulous patch.
What most surprised me was to learn that this object had no Messier number.
Inconceivably, it seems to have been missed by the French cataloguer of fuzzy blurs that might be mistaken for comets. So it is known by its New General Catalog number, NGC 7789.

I’ve attached a map here, a screen grab from the Starry Night program, to show NGC 7789’s location. It is above the horizon throughout the night from the UK and high in the sky at midnight at this time of year. So do go out and have a look. It is well worth viewing.

Despite the plethora of big telescopes here and the presence my own 8-inch Vixen Visac scope, I very much enjoyed just sitting back and scanning the sky for more fuzzy Messier objects.

Challenged by members of the Society for Popular Astronomy’s forum, I viewed my favourite galaxy, M33 in Triangulum, which can be a challenge in a telescope if skies are less than perfect. It was easily seen in my binoculars and I am also quite sure that I also able to spot it with the unaided eye.

We looked through the 18-inch telescope too where it was possible to discern the galaxy’s spiral structure, resembling a giant backward S.

On a perfect night, M13 in Hercules and M81 and M82 in Ursa Major were other easy objects in the binoculars. And it was a delight to sweep up M35, a beautiful bright star cluster, shining low over the horizon in Gemini.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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