NGC 2392 is a 9th magnitude bipolar double shell planetary nebula located in the constellation of Gemini. Resembling a person's head surrounded by a parka hood, it's commonly known as the "Eskimo Nebula" or "Clown Face Nebula". William Herschel discovered it from his observatory in Slough on January 17, 1787, describing the planetary nebula as a 9th magnitude star with a bright centre surrounded by equally dispersed nebulosity.

Locating the Eskimo Nebula is relatively easy; it's positioned just east of centre of the bright zodiacal constellation of Gemini, "the Twins" and close to Wasat (δ Gem - mag. +3.5). The easiest way to find Gemini is by identifying its two brightest stars Castor (α Gem - mag. +1.58) and Pollux (β Gem - mag. +1.16). They are positioned east of the familiar "V" shaped asterism of Taurus and to the northeast of the bright prominent constellation of Orion.

Imagine a line extending from Pollux - the brighter of the twins - towards the southwest in the direction of Orions belt. Positioned just over 8 degrees along this line is Wasat and 2.3 degrees southeast of Wasat is NGC 2392. The planetary nebula is positioned next to a mag. +8.2 yellow white star. At first glance through a telescope the pair appears like a wide double star, separated by about 100 arc seconds.

NGC 2392 The Eskimo Nebula (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Finder Chart for NGC 2392

Finder Chart for NGC 2392 - pdf format

At 9th magnitude, the Eskimo nebula is a challenging binocular object. It can be detected in 10x50 binoculars although faint and stellar like in appearance. However, it may be possible to notice a twinkling effect when switching between normal and averted vision, suggesting its true nature. With small scopes of the order of 80 to 100mm (3.1 to 4 inches) aperture, its diminutive size of 48" can present problems to observers hunting with low powers. With an apparent size no larger than Jupiter at opposition, it appears as a tiny out of focus star with a noticeable bluish-green tint. Once located, switch to higher powers to reveal the 10th magnitude central star and fuzzy encircling disk.

Since it's a compact object with high surface brightness, NGC 2392 takes magnification well. When viewed through a medium size 200mm (8-inch) telescope at medium to high magnifications, intrigue details in the nebulosity can de seen including dark arcs imposed on a mottled background. An Ultra High Contrast (UHC) filter may also help to bring out finer details. The planetary appears intense bluish-green in colour. As is common with objects of this type it often appears to blink on and off.

In January 2000, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) captured a majestic image of NGC 2392. Visible in superb detail were the glowing remains of this dying star, exposing striking filaments of gas and matter extending outwards from an intriguing bubble of inner twinning material. Larger sized amateur telescopes of the order of 300mm (12-inch) or greater provide a glimpse of the spectacular detail present in the Hubble image.

The distance to NGC 2392 is not accurately known but is estimated to be about 2900 light-years, corresponding to a spatial diameter of 0.68 light-years.

NGC 2392 Data Table

NGC2392
Caldwell39
NameEskimo Nebula
Object TypePlanetary Nebula
ConstellationGemini
Distance (kly)2.9
Apparent Mag.9.1
RA (J2000)07h 29m 11s
DEC (J2000)20d 54m 42s
Apparent Size (arc mins)0.8
Radius (light-years)0.34
Other NamesClown face Nebula

Sky Highlights - March 2017

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

Mercury
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
Evening
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)
Midnight
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Morning
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
Midnight
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
Morning
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)

Telescopes:-
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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