Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - 43

DRACO

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WHEN TO
USE THE MAP

Late Oct
Early Nov
Late Nov
Early Dec
Late Dec

Midnight*
10 p.m.
9 p.m.
8 p.m.
7 p.m.

*Daylight-saving time

ur target this month is the open cluster
Collinder 464 in the constellation Camelopardalis, the Giraffe. At first glance, it might not look
much like a cluster, but rather a gaggle of moderately
bright stars scattered across an ellipse almost 3°
wide. Collinder 464 is pretty close as open clusters
go, only about 400 light-years away. By comparison,
most of the Messier, Caldwell, and showpiece NGC
open clusters are between 1,000 and 7,000 lightyears distant. Because it's so close, Collinder 464 is
therefore spread out, so the challenge is not so much
to see it, but to recognize it as a cluster.
Another oddity is that this big, diffuse cluster is
not round, but instead elongated from east to west. If
you imagine that line and extend it another 30º toward
the heart of Cassiopeia, you'd find it intersecting the
backbone of the Milky Way. And indeed, some astrophysicists hypothesize that Collinder 464 has been
stretched toward the galactic plane by tidal forces.
In binoculars, Collinder 464 appears to contain
about a dozen stars of 6th and 7th magnitude, and
a host of dimmer ones. Some of the bright ones are
cluster members, but others lie in the foreground
or background, only coincidentally aligned with the
cluster as seen from Earth. To me, the stars here
seem to be hung in regular geometric arrangements:
triangles, parallelograms, and 90° and 120° angles,
like the skeleton of some great engineering project.
Under sufficiently dark skies, a swarm of 8th- and
9th-magnitude stars fills in the picture, especially at
the eastern and western ends of the cluster. I find
that Collinder 464 rewards an unhurried survey. I
hope it pulls you in as well.

„ MATT WEDEL is feeling the pull of the night sky

right now, and he's headed outside at the end of
this sentence.
sk yandtelescope.org * DECEMBER 2 02 0

43


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Sky & Telescope - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - December 2020

Contents
Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - 1
Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - 3
Sky & Telescope - December 2020 - 4
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