IC 59 and IC 63 are faint reflection and emission nebula located in the northern constellation of Cassiopeia. They are challenging objects to spot with telescopes for a number of reasons. Both nebulae are faint at apparent mag. +10, they have extremely low surface brightness and surround bright variable star gamma Cas (γ Cas). This remarkable star is partly unstable and is known as a "shell star". It currently shines at mag. +2.15, making it the brightest star in Cassiopeia.

IC 59 and IC 63 are 610 light-years distant. From our perspective, IC 59 is located on the northern side of gamma Cas and IC 63 to the northeast. Spatially the nebulae are roughly 3 light-years from gamma Cas, although IC 63 is slightly closer to the star. As a result, it's appears mostly red due to a dominance of H-alpha emission, whereas IC 59 exhibits much less H-alpha emission and appears mostly blue due to dust reflected starlight.

IC 59 and IC 63 (credit:- Ken Crawford, Rancho Del Sol Observatory (www.imagingdeepsky.com))

Finder Chart for IC 59 and IC 63 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for IC 59 and IC 63 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

To spot the nebulae a 250mm (10-inch) telescope or larger is recommended, although on good nights they can be seen with smaller scopes. The trick is to move the star out of the field of view. In addition, patience viewing combined with a nebula filter and averted vision are an advantage. However, the objects are visually challenging. IC 63 is slightly easier to spot and appears triangular or wedge shaped. IC 59 is oval shaped, with both nebulae spanning about 10 arc minutes of apparent sky. Being able to spot them depends much on seeing conditions. Some observers have reported glimpsing them with an instrument as small as a 100mm (4-inch) refractor, while others couldn't even see them with a 400mm (16-inch) Dobsonian.

The nebulae are best seen from the Northern Hemisphere during the months of October, November and December. From latitudes greater than 30N they are circumpolar and therefore never set.

IC 59 Data Table

Object TypeReflection / Emission Nebula
Distance (light-years)610
Apparent Mag.+10
RA (J2000)00h 57m 29s
DEC (J2000)+61d 08m 37s
Apparent Size (arc mins)10 x 5
Radius (light-year)1

IC 63 Data Table

Object TypeReflection / Emission Nebula
Distance (light-years)610
Apparent Mag.+10
RA (J2000)00h 59m 29s
DEC (J2000)+60d 54m 40s
Apparent Size (arc mins)10 x 3
Radius (light-year)1

Sky Highlights - May 2017

Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on May 17, 2017

Meteor Shower
Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaks on May 5th and 6th, 2017

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for May 2017

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Mars (mag. +1.6)
South:- Jupiter (mag. -2.4)
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.2)
South:- Saturn
East:- Venus (mag. -4.7)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Mars
North:- Jupiter
Northwest:- Jupiter
North:- Saturn
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Venus, Mercury (mag. +2.5 to -0.3), Neptune (mag. +7.9)

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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