M48 (NGC 2548) -- Open Cluster in Hydra
Alone in Space
The pretty open cluster, M48, resides in a lonely section of the night sky, if you observe
from the lighted-skies above the suburbs. I have, over the years, developed a feel for
where it is, about four times the distance below and in-line-of the two brightest stars in
Canis Minor and forming an equilateral triangle between Alpha Hydrae and Epsilon
Hydrae. Using just a Telrad (1x – finder), from the deck of my house, I can now land
the cluster in the low power eyepiece in a couple of tries.
When Messier tried to describe the location of this cluster in 1771, he really had no
good reference points (close bright stars) for him to refer to. His declination
measurement was off by a full 5 degrees. This resulted in M48, becoming one of
Messier’s missing objects. Caroline Herschel (sister to William Herschel)
rediscovered M48 on March 8, 1873. By then a much better system was in place for
recording the location of objects in the night sky.
I find M48 a nice collection of stars. It has strings of dimmer stars scattered between
the brighter members of the cluster. In addition, faint stars appear scattered
throughout the cluster, that are on the edge of visibility in the telescope but never
coalesce into apparent nebulosity as in so many other clusters. A pleasant sight
through the telescope – but not the easiest cluster to capture in a drawing.