Finally the drought broke on Sunday morning with two. Both of extra galactic treasures.
First was the nebula and open cluster complex NGC 346 in the SMC (Small Magellanic Cloud). I’ve been wanting to sketch this system since my first look at it. For being so far away, it is very bright, so the member stars of the cluster must be very big to be so bright.
At first glance, the nebula has an appearance of a kidney. The top lobe being immediately brighter as it houses the cluster. There is a dark lane that separates the cluster from the crest of the lobe. This lane is a band of dust that is more detailed in photographs.
The surroundings of 346 are spectacular too. The overall background is bright and somewhat ‘nebulous’ due to the mottling from the multitude of unseen stars within the SMC. Adding to the spectacular collection of DSOs in this area is another bright open cluster and nebula complex, NGC 371, just to the north of 346. The cluster is larger in size than 346, and the nebulosity more tenuous, so I suspect that 371 is older and therefore the cluster’s members have spread apart from each other and the gas and dust of the nebula dispersed – something like the Pleiades.
Just to the east of 346 was a softly glowing ball, which could be another open cluster, IC 1611.
Object: NGC 346, NGC 371 and IC 1611
Scope: 17.5” f/4.5 push-pull dob
Gear: 13mm modified Baader Hyperion, 154X, +OIII filter
Location: Katoomba Airfield, Oz
Date: 3rd November, 2013
Media: White soft pastel and charcoal on A4 size black paper.
Duration: 1.5 hrs