IC 2602 is a prominent open cluster in the southern constellation of Carina that was discovered by Abbe Lacaille in 1751 from South Africa. It contains about 60 stars spread across 50 arc minutes and is easily visible to the naked eye. The brightest member is blue-white Theta Carinae (θ Car) which shines at mag. +2.74. Of the remaining constituents all are of fifth magnitude or fainter. When seen through binoculars and small scopes, IC 2602 is a stunning object and a superb example of its type.

IC 2602 (credit - Roberto Mura)

IC 2602 is one of the brightest and closest open clusters to the Solar System. It's known as the "Theta Carinae Cluster" or "Southern Pleiades" and has a combined magnitude of +1.9. For comparison, IC 2602 is 70% fainter and about half the apparent size of its northern namesake, M45 "The Pleiades".

Through popular 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars this dazzling cluster appears bright and large. The standout star is of course θ Car which is located towards the centre of the group, surrounded by dozens of fainter stars. The brightest members trace out a hat or rectangular type shape. The cluster is superbly seen in small / medium scopes especially at low powers where it fills the eyepiece view with many mostly blue-white stars. In larger scopes some of the awe is lost as it tends to overflow the field of view.

The Southern Pleiades is estimated to be 50 million years old with a spatial diameter of about 7 light-years. It's estimated to be 480 light-years distant. Only the Hyades cluster (153 light-years), the Coma cluster (280 light-years) and M45 (425 light-years) are nearer to us. IC 2602 is best seen from southern latitudes during the months of February, March and April. For observers living north of latitude +26 degrees it never rises above the horizon.

Finder Chart for IC 2602

Finder Chart for IC 2602 - pdf format

IC 2602 Data Table

NameSouthern Pleiades
Object TypeOpen Cluster
Distance (kly)0.48
Apparent Mag.1.9
RA (J2000)10h 42m 58s
DEC (J2000)-64d 23m 50s
Apparent Size (arc mins)50
Radius (light-years)3.5
Age (years)50 Million
Number of Stars60
Other NamesTheta Carinae Cluster, Collinder 229

Sky Highlights - March 2017

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak now visible with binoculars as it heads towards perihelion

Mercury heading towards greatest elongation east

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for March 2017

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (mag. -4.8 to -4.1 - first half of month), Mars (mag. +1.3 to +1.5), Uranus (mag. +5.9), Mercury (mag. -1.5 to -0.4 - second half of month)
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
West:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +8.0 - second half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Messier 67 - M67 - Open Cluster
Messier 51 - M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 97 - M97 - The Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
Messier 101 - M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 65 – M65 – Spiral Galaxy
Messier 66 - M66 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
Messier 95 - M95 - Barred Spiral Galaxy
Messier 96 - M96 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4244 - Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4565 - Needle Galaxy - Spiral Galaxy

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