…continuedA Galaxy-Hop in Leo
From NGC 3810 to a Pair of Faint Glows
Star-hop southward through faint fields, working with the map from triangle to triangle, until you're looking at exactly the right spot. I saw nothing here at first. But with more time a faint, ethereal little patch glimmered in and out of view. Eventually I was able to hold it in view for a couple of seconds at a time. Success! Don't forget to breathe steadily while looking for something this faint; your eye needs oxygen. What I was seeing was only the galaxy's small nucleus, less than 1' wide, not the disk of spiral arms prominent in the photograph above.
4. 88 Leonis. Work nearly 4° northwest until you hit this double star. Its components are magnitudes 6.4 and 8.4, off-white and orange-brown, 16 arcseconds apart with the faint one to the north-northwest. The bright star is an F7 dwarf about 2½ times as luminous as the Sun; the faint one is 2½ times dimmer than the Sun.
5. NGC 3686, 3684, and 3681. Farther northwest is the 6th-magnitude orange-yellow star 81 Leonis. Spaced in a row less than a degree northeast of it are three galaxies. NGC 3686 wasn't very difficult a large, diffuse glow with hardly any central brightening. But I could see nothing of the other two. Oddly, however, all three are listed as about the same visual magnitude (11.3), size (2' by 3'), and low surface brightness (13.2 magnitudes per square arcminute).
6. NGC 3655 (magnitude 11.7, surface brightness 11.8) was a challenge, barely detectable in the 6-inch. How hard it is to imagine that each of these dim little glows we're finding is an island universe containing hundreds of billions of suns and, most surely, many billions of planets!
7. NGC 3626 (mag. 11.0, s.b. 12.5) was the easiest galaxy on the itinerary so far. It was visible at first glance or at least its rather small, condensed nucleus was.
8. NGC 3607 and 3608 (mags. 9.9 and 10.8, s.b. 12.9 and 12.6, respectively). Here was an unexpectedly lovely pair of glows. Both were easy to spot at first look. The one on the south, NGC 3607, is larger, more condensed ("condensed" means concentrated toward the middle), and has a brighter nucleus. There's a sprinkling of faint stars around and among the pair, adding to the beauty of the field. I saw no sign of nearby NGC 3599, magnitude 11.9.