NGC 6939 (Open Cluster) & NGC 6946 (Spiral Galaxy) in Cepheus
Flying Geese Cluster and the Firecracker Galaxy
I have pleasant memories of viewing the Flying Geese Cluster (NGC 6939) and the
Firecracker Galaxy (NGC 6946) in the same field-of-view under a truly dark sky with
the 18-inch Dobsonian. From my suburban backyard using the 6.1-inch refractor the
view is regrettably compromised. But last night gave me a transparent and moonless
night with Cepheus at the zenith, so it was as good a time as any, to give the twin deep
sky objects a try with the refractor.
The Flying Geese Cluster and the Firecracker Galaxy both fit easily in the same eyepiece
field at 52x in the refractor. The cluster was obvious showing its distinctive V-shaped stars
reminiscent of flying geese, but the Firecracker Galaxy was but a ghost. At first, its
star-like core was the only thing that was seen, (and even then, you needed to know exactly
where to look). Only with patience and using every trick I could think of (black cloth over my
head, deep breathing, averted vision and vibrating the telescope) could I tease out the faint
surrounding halo belonging to the galaxy.
I also used a higher magnification (84x) which helped bring out the fainter stars in the
cluster, but it added nothing, and may have made it more difficult, in viewing the galaxy’s
halo. The composite drawing shows the eyepiece view at 52x, but I added the fainter
stars in the Flying Geese Cluster using 84x.