NGC 6882/6885 is an open cluster in the faint constellation of Vulpecula that can just about be seen with the naked eye, is easy with binoculars and has up to 40 stars visible through telescopes. The object has somewhat of a confusing history. In September 1784, William Herschel discovered two open clusters, NGC 6882 and NGC 6885. He subsequently catalogued them but with virtually identical descriptions. Since no cluster exists that matches the location and description of NGC 6882, many astronomers believe that Herschel made a mistake and simply repeated his observation. However, the story doesn't end here. Adding to the confusion is a fainter, smaller and less rich cluster, Collinder 416, that's positioned at the northwest edge of NGC 6882/6885. Some astronomers believe this to be NGC 6882.

NGC 6882/6885 is grouped around the brightest member star, 20 Vul (mag. +5.9). Located 1.5 degrees northeast of NGC 6882/6885 is 23 Vul, which at mag. +4.5 is the second brightest star in the constellation. Positioned 9 degrees west-northwest of the cluster is the beautiful double star Albireo (mag. +2.9) in Cygnus.

NGC 6882 / NGC 6885 (credit - Roberto Mura)

Finder Chart for NGC 6882 / NGC 6885 (credit - freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for NGC 6882 / NGC 6885 - pdf format (credit - freestarcharts)

NGC 6882/6885 is faintly visible to the naked eye under dark skies, appearing as a hazy patch of light. Binoculars easily reveal 20 Vul although on initial glance the cluster may be missed due to the glare of the star. On further inspection the main members of the grouping are resolvable. Surrounded them is a misty glow with the centre of the cluster appearing loose. A small scope reveals more members with larger scopes revealing up to 40 stars. In total, NGC 6882/6885 is spread over 20 arc minutes of sky.

NGC 6882/6885 has a combined mag. of +5.5. The nearby smaller fainter cluster Collinder 416 (Cr 416) shines at mag. +8.1 and spans 8 arc minutes. To many observers, the region appears as just one loose star grouping.

NGC 6882/6885 is a very old cluster with an estimated age of 1.4 billion years. It's about 2,000 light-years distant from Earth and is listed as number 37 in the Caldwell catalogue. The cluster is best seen from northern locations during the months of July, August and September.

NGC 6882 / NGC 6885 Data Table

NGC6882 / 6885
Object TypeOpen Cluster
Distance (ly)2,000
Apparent Mag.+5.5
RA (J2000)20h 11m 56s
DEC (J2000)26d 29m 20s
Apparent Size (arc mins)20 x 20
Radius (light-years)6
Age (years)1.4 Billion
Number of Stars40
Notable FeatureQuesions remain regarding if NGC 6882 and NGC 6885 are indeed the same item

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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