Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - 65

ISTOCK PHOTO.COM

p MOUNTAIN HIGH Deep-sky observing doesn't always require equipment. A naked-eye view of the Pleiades provides its own type of reward.

component stars, both around 8th magnitude, are labeled
HD 23463 and ADS 2755. HD 23463 shines with a saturated
orange color, making a fine contrast to ADS 2755 and all the
surrounding white-blue luminaries.
And then there's IC 349, often referred to as Barnard's
Merope Nebula, which can be something of a challenge object.
IC 349 is the brightest knot of the interstellar dust associated
with the Pleiades. It's physically close to Merope and is slowly
evaporating by its radiation pressure, as evidenced by the nebulous streaks in the Hubble Space Telescope image shown on
page 63. Seeing this slowly dissolving nebula is a rare treat.
American astronomer E. E. Barnard discovered IC 349
visually in 1890 with the Lick 36-inch refractor. His measurements showed that IC 349 was only 36 arcseconds from
Merope and 30 arcseconds in size. He observed it in a 12-inch
Clark refractor using an occulting eyepiece, an observation
replicated by S&T Contributing Editor Sue French with her
14.5-inch reflector. Her occulting eyepiece produced 212×.
A narrow field of view or occulting eyepiece is essential
to block the glare of magnitude -4.17 Merope, which masks
small IC 349. The narrower field of view and higher magnifi-

cation of a larger scope are also essential, because the nebula
is small and right next to Merope. Approach it carefully and
you may be able to see this little nebula in a 12-inch.
I've studied IC 349 in 20- to 48-inch Newtonians and
found a second key to a successful observation when using a
reflector: make sure the nebula is placed between Merope's
diffraction spikes. For my scopes, that means the Pleiades
must be within an hour or so of the meridian.
Although it's fun to see IC 349 if you have a large enough
scope, the real joy of the Pleiades is seeing them all at once
and in context with their faintly illuminated dust bubble -
glittering, as Tennyson prophetically wrote in 1835, "like a
swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid."
■ Contributing Editor HOWARD BANICH lives in Portland, Oregon. Look for him and his 28-inch Newtonian telescope at the
annual Oregon Star Party.
Further Reading:
A fascinating account of the entire discovery history of the
Pleiades nebulae can be found in Wolfgang Steinicke's
Observing and Cataloguing Nebulae and Star Clusters, From
Herschel to Dreyer's New General Catalogue (Cambridge
University Press, 2010): pp. 521-561.

* Have you seen the Pleiades Bubble? Share your observations with Howard Banich at howard.banich@nike.com.
s k y a n d t e l e s c o p e .c o m

* JANUARY 2017

65


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Sky and Telescope - January 2017

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Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - Cover3
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Sky and Telescope - January 2017 - SGA17RAL
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