Thanks to Cloudy Nights members Keith Rivich and Love Cowboy’s encouragement, I am posting this report:
On the morning of October 14th, with a SQM-L reading 21.2, I tried to observe NGC 1049 (+12.6) with my 130mm f/5 reflector. It’s the brightest globular cluster that belongs to the Fornax Dwarf. I found that with 34x (1.7° TFOV), I could just see it, but I used 72x (1.3° TFOV) to confirm that sighting. I also found that keeping at 72x allowed me to nab the other member globulars Fornax 2 (+14.1), 4 (+13.6), and 5 (+13.6).
What was really cool was that by panning across the location of the Fornax Dwarf with 34x, I could see it! The galaxy was a roundish glow a little brighter than the background sky and brightened a little towards the center. Somewhere I’ve read that the Fornax Dwarf has been seen with a pair of 25x100 binoculars. You don’t really hear about observations of the galaxy itself, though. Especially from the Northern Hemisphere. When I made my observation, the galaxy was at an altitude of 18.5°, which is about as high as it gets for me.
I believe my first introduction to the Fornax Dwarf was five years ago in Phillip Harrington’s book Cosmic Challenge. In it, he wrote “The Fornax Dwarf Galaxy is a paradox. Even though the galaxy itself is beyond the range of our telescopes even from the darkest observing locations, four of its six known globular clusters are within the grasp of 10-inch, or maybe 12-inch, telescopes.” So, in January of 2016, I got to see the dwarf galaxy’s four brightest globular clusters at 132x in my 10-inch SCT. But I couldn’t see the galaxy itself – though I hadn’t expected to see it anyways from Phil’s description!
One of the next times I read about the Fornax Dwarf was in the November 2018 issue of Sky & Telescope, where Steve Gottlieb wrote “Our next stop is the Fornax Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy (Fornax dSph), a Milky Way satellite at a distance of 470,000 light-years. It escaped detection until 1938, when Harlow Shapley noticed it on a 24-inch Bruce astrograph plate taken at Harvard’s Boyden Station in South Africa. Although the integrated magnitude is an impressive 8.0, don’t be misled; the light is spread out over ½° of sky and its anemic surface brightness, along with a low elevation (declination –34.5°), conspire to make the Fornax Dwarf a formidable visual target. My only convincing view was from the Southern Hemisphere when the galaxy was high overhead. Even then, I only noticed a subtle brightening confirmed by tracing around the galaxy’s periphery. The galaxy itself may be barely detectable, but four of its five globulars can be seen through a 10-inch scope (my comments are based on the view through a 13-inch).” That’s more encouraging than Phil’s description, but still not enough for me to go out of my way to try for the galaxy. He also doesn’t give any more encouragement than Phil on small telescopes seeing its globular clusters. By the way, I still don’t understand why Steve says the Fornax Dwarf only has “five globulars” when Phil says it has six.
The most recent write-up I’ve seen on the Fornax Dwarf was by Bob King in a December 2017 online S&T article titled “Meet the Shy Side of the Local Group”. He wrote “From my home, the Fornax Dwarf Galaxy never gets higher than 8° above the southern horizon, one of the reasons I've never seen the galaxy itself. Too much thick air and haze! But on good nights using medium and high magnifications, I've succeeded in seeing four of the galaxy's six globular clusters. Those living much farther south may be able to spot the galaxy in a 6- or 8-inch wide-field instrument by sweeping back and forth over its position until a faint haze materializes. The brightest globular, NGC 1049 at magnitude 12.9, is visible in an 8-inch, no problem. It even shows structure. In the 15-inch at 245× I can see a brighter core ringed by a fainter, diffuse halo. The other globulars — Fornax 2, 4, and 5 — appear as assorted faint puffs.” I like his write-up the best because he gave much more encouragement to the spotting of the Fornax Galaxy. And he left no doubt that NGC 1049 is a globular cluster for single digit apertures despite possibly never having seen it that way himself.
So I want to encourage those that have dark skies in the southern United States (and elsewhere) to try to see it this winter. And I want to encourage those with crazy awesome RFT’s like CN member Augustus to take a stab at it even though they live in the northern states. It is NOT invisible from the United States and I believe that more people can see it if they are encourage to do so. So take heart, because I saw it from 36.1 N and it didn't "break my eyes" to see it with little my Zhumell Z130!
(How's that, Keith Rivich and Love Cowboy?)
Edited by SNH, 17 October 2020 - 11:20 PM.