NGC 1851 is a globular cluster in the southern constellation of Columba that's easily visible with binoculars. It's an unusual cluster since it was probably a former member of the Canis Major Dwarf galaxy. This dwarf galaxy and Local Group member was discovered in 2003.

James Dunlop, a Scottish astronomer based in Australia, discovered NGC 1851 on May 29, 1826. It shines at mag. +7.3 and spans 11 arc minutes of sky, making it the brightest and largest deep sky object in Columba.

The globular is best seen during the months of December, January and February. From northern temperate locations it appears low down, apart from latitudes above 50N where it's not even visible at all. The object is number 73 in the Caldwell catalogue.

NGC 1851 (credit:- NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Finder Chart for NGC 1851 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for NGC 1851 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Columba is not a difficult constellation to recognise under a dark sky. Its brightest stars shining at third magnitude. To locate NGC 1851, look towards the southwestern corner of the constellation, 9 degrees southwest of Phact (α Col - mag. +2.7). In this barren region of sky you will find NGC 1851.

Through popular 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars, the globular appears as a small fuzzy ball of light. With an 80mm (3.1-inch) scope at low magnifications it's unresolved, spans about 5 arc minutes and looks somewhat like the halo of a comet. The brightest individual members are of 13th magnitude and a 200mm (8-inch) scope will resolve some of them, especially under dark skies. NGC 1851 is a superb site when seen through large backyard scopes. A 300mm (12-inch) instrument reveals a large, bright round ball of stars that's well resolved at 250x magnification. There are several chains of stars visible that branch outwards from the centre.

NGC 1851 is 39,500 light-years distant. It has an actual diameter of 130 light-years and is estimated to contain 200,000 stars. The cluster is 9.2 billion years old.

NGC 1851 Data Table

Object TypeGlobular Cluster
Distance (light-years)39,500
Apparent Mag.+7.3
RA (J2000)05h 14m 06s
DEC (J2000)-40d 02m 50s
Apparent Size (arc mins)11
Radius (light-years)65
Age (years)9.2 Billion
Number of Stars200,000

Sky Highlights - September 2017

Neptune reaches opposition on September 5th

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for September

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Jupiter (mag. -1.7)
Southwest:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)
East:- Neptune (mag. +7.8)
South:- Neptune
East:- Uranus (mag. +5.7)
West:- Neptune
South:- Uranus
East:- Venus (mag. -3.9), Mars (mag. +1.8) (from second week), Mercury (mag. +0.5 to -1.3) (from second week)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Jupiter
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Neptune
West:- Saturn
North:- Neptune
Northeast:- Uranus
West:- Neptune
Northwest:- Uranus
Northeast:- Venus
East:- Mars (end of month)

Deep Sky

Small telescopes:-
Messier 13 - M13 - Great Hercules Globular Cluster
Messier 92 - M92 - Globular Cluster
Messier 11 - M11 - The Wild Duck Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 7 - M7 - The Ptolemy Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 6 - M6 - The Butterfly Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 4 - M4 - Globular Cluster
Messier 8 - M8 - Lagoon Nebula (Emission Nebula)
Messier 16 - M16 - Eagle Nebula (Emission Nebula with Open Cluster)
Messier 20 - M20 - Trifid Nebula (Emission and Reflection Nebula)

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