…continuedNebulae of the Deep South
Glories of Carina
Trumpler 16 holds the very bright, very tiny (15") Homunculus Nebula, a bipolar shell of dust and gas that surrounds the supergiant star Eta Carinae (R.A. 10h 45m 03.6s, Dec. -59° 41" 04', equinox 2000.0). The intensely colored Homunculus Nebula is as orange as Antares. I studied it with ASNSW member Andrew Murrell's 20-inch f/5 Dobsonian at 363x on a very steady night at the site where the South Pacific Star Party was later held. Amazingly, I was able to see the major features that are visible on the Hubble Space Telescope image. The western lobe was narrower and had a tiny dusky inclusion; the eastern lobe was wider and had two tiny dark inclusions arranged along the Homunculus's major axis. Tiny spikes extended both northwest and southeast of the obscured star, with the northwestern spike being the sharper of the two. This detailed view of matter thrown off by the unstable star during its famous 19th-century outburst was perhaps the most exciting part of my trip.
The emission nebula NGC 3324 would be more famous were it not overshadowed by the nearby Eta Carinae Nebula. Seen through ASNSW member and South Pacific Star Party cofounder Tony Buckley's 14½-inch f/7 Dobsonian at 81x, NGC 3324 was a nebulous two-lobed patch. A bright yellow star adorns the southern lobe; the northern lobe of nebulosity is crescent-shaped. The view improved noticeably when a Lumicon ultra-high-contrast (UHC) filter was threaded onto the eyepiece. Intriguingly, the Millennium Star Atlas and NGC 2000.0 both suggest that a cluster is involved with this nebula, but none was apparent at the eyepiece.
The faint emission and reflection nebula NGC 3293 surrounds a splendid open cluster sharing the same NGC number. That cluster was an incredibly tight ball of stars in the 14½-inch at 81x. A line of three bright stars, one orange, highlights the center. A long, dark nebula coursed to the west of the open cluster, and a tiny one lay immediately to the east. Without a filter there was only a hint of the diffuse emission nebulosity seen in photographs. But with a UHC filter and a magnification of 136x the cluster was enmeshed in nebulosity, and the long dark lane became more obvious.