NGC 3242 (Ghost of Jupiter) -- Planetary Nebula in Hydra
Ghost of Jupiter
NGC 3242 is a stunning Planetary Nebula. In size and brightness, it is equal to the more
famous, and more often observed, Ring Nebula, M57, in Lyra. NGC 3242 is also around
the size and shape of Jupiter, thus its common name of the “Ghost of Jupiter”.
Unfortunately, from where I live, the Ghost is low in the southern sky and its location not
well marked with obvious nearby stars.
The Ghost is bright, and at low power, easily mistaken for a pale blue star. But NGC
3242 handles magnification well. There is no need for a nebula filter on this object. In the
small 110mm refractor at around 100x the planetary nebula showed its slightly oval-shape
and seemed to be hiding a couple of blurry stars. When the power was increased to
171x it became apparent (with some effort and time) that the pair of blurry stars were the
bright ends of the inner ring of the planetary. I failed to find the central star and to connect
the brighter ends of the inner ring together to make a complete ring. Still it was a
pleasing deep sky object showing color and internal structure and well worth spending