|NGC 7538: Emission Nebula (Cepheus) RA: 23h 13.7m / DEC: +61° 31'.2|
Instrument: 18-inch Obsession
When Jim Roberts asked if I'd ever seen the Ghost Nebula, I had to admit I'd never even heard of it. Roberts was referring to NGC 7538, an emission nebula in far eastern Cepheus; just over a degree west of the bright galactic cluster, M52. When I looked into the eyepiece of his 20-inch Obsession, I knew exactly why he calls this object the Ghost Nebula. And I hope my sketch, which renders a 199X view in my 18-inch, captures the experience. NGC 7538 features two equal brightness, 11th magnitude stars embedded within the nebulosity. The separation is about 26" and, together, these glowing embers give the appearance of a ghostly set of eyes staring back at you through the telescope. The nebula covers roughly a 3'.5 by 2' area of sky with the Lumicon UHC filter in place. Megastar indicates a rangier object, a full 10' by 6' in extent. The western portion--where the eyes are--is brighter and appears somewhat detached from the eastern half. Where the two sections meet, the joining seems to be notched or obscured in the foreground by dark clouds. It's really quite wonderful to view. A pair of faint stars combine with the eyes to create a parallelogram asterism. Among the 40 stars peppering the field, the brightest are 9.7 magnitude and 10.2 magnitude sparklers to the northeast of the Ghost Nebula.
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Revised: December 4, 2005 [WDF]