NGC 7008 (Fetus Nebula) and HJ 1606

Observation Notes:

This fascinating planetary nebula was pleasantly large, and easy to spot with my low power eyepiece at 37.5X. I could see no color in the nebula, but there was some color right next to it in the double star HJ 1606. The primary of this double was a subtle, warm ivory, while the secondary was blue. The nebula had a comma or ear-like shape, formed by a dark intrusion entering from the south-southeast. It also appeared lumpy and enmeshed with faint stars. Those stars gave an initial impression of a highly unresolved open cluster. What appeared to be three stars at first, turned out to be only two. After some examination of astrophotos, the northernmost “star” appears to be a highly condensed bright spot in the nebula. A look at Wes Stone’s gallery shows that he too detected this area as star-like in this excellent sketch: NGC 7008 – Wes Stone

I measured the double star at a PA of 183° and a separation of 18.9 arc seconds. The Washington Double Star catalog lists a 1901 value of 185° and 18.4 arc seconds.

This colorful double, and fascinating, unusually shaped planetary nebula make for a great pair to observe on a warm summer night.

Object Information:

NGC 7008 was discovered by Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel in 1787. It is also cataloged as: PK93+5.2, H I-192, h 2099, GC 4627

Subject NGC 7008
HJ 1606
Classification* NGC 7008: Planetary Nebula (3)
HJ 1606: Double Star
Position* NGC 7008: Cygnus [RA: 21:00:32.8 / Dec: +54:32:35]
HJ 1606: Cygnus [RA: 21:00:35.3 / Dec: +54:31:45]
Size* NGC 7008: 97″ x 75″
Brightness* NGC 7008: 10.7 vMag
HJ 1606: A: 9.3 / B: 10.2
Position Angle HJ 1606: 183° [my measurement 2008.5]
185° [WDS 1901]
Separation HJ 1606: 18.9″ [my measurement 2008.5]
18.4″ [WDS 1901]
Date/Time July 27, 2008 – 10:30 PM MST (July 28, 2008 – 5:30 UT)
Observing Loc. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA – Home
Instrument Orion SkyQuest XT8 (203 mm dia./1200 mm F/L)
Eyepieces/Mag. 10 mm Sirius Plössl + 2X Barlow (240X)
Conditions Partly cloudy, breezy
Seeing 3/10 Pickering
Transparency ~ Mag 6.0 NELM
*References, The Washington Visual Double Star Catalog, 1996.0 (Worley+, 1996); Catalog of Stellar Spectral Classifications (Skiff, 2007)