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Baxendell's Nebula

NGC 7088, Ced 193, Baxendell's Nebula

RA: 21h 33m 22s
Dec: −00° 23′ 0″

Con: Aquarius
Ch: MSA:1286, U2:255, SA:17

Ref: NGC/IC

(reference key)

Type: lost

Mag: B=?, V=?

Size: ?
PA: ?

History and Accurate Positions for the NGC/IC Objects (Corwin 2004)

NGC 7088 does not exist, even though around a dozen sightings have been reported of it in the literature, including one by Dreyer himself in the NGC Notes. The nominal position, from Baxendell, is about half a degree north of M2 (NGC 7089), but there is nothing there but faint field stars.

About half a degree on to the northwest of the NGC position is a 1.5 degree long streak of interstellar "cirrus", dust well above the plane of the Galaxy reflecting the light of the Galactic disk back to us (see IC 336 for some of these dust clouds that are definitely in the catalogues). The cirrus is most easily visible in the IRAS 100-micron ISSA images of the area, though it also shows up in the 12-, 25-, and 60-micron images, and on the POSS1 prints, AND on the IIIa-J film copies of the latest optical surveys from Palomar and Siding Spring.

While I suppose it is just vaguely possible that this may be Baxendell's object, his clear description of a southern boundary just 7 arcmin north of M2, and of a nearly round shape, almost certainly rules this out. The IRAS 100-micron images in particular show a "hole" in the dust north of M2, just the opposite of what we'd expect if the nebula were real.

My own feeling about this object is that it may have been a reflection of some other object (perhaps even M2) within Baxendell's telescope or eyepiece, and that later observations are similar illusions simply "wished" into existence (see NGC 2529 and NGC 2531 for a discussion of two other such objects).

Also see NGC 1990 where an apparently similarly illusory nebula has been seen around a bright star.

Historical observations

NGC/IC Dreyer (1888, 1895, 1908)

This intruiging object was first recorded by Baxendell (Monthly Notices, Vol XLI, p 48) as a very large and very diffused nebulosity north of the cluster Messier 2. Dreyer notes that he has seen it without difficulty in the Armagh 10-inch refractor, when he saw it to extend about 35' northwards from the parallel of the star 10 seconds North-East of M2, and to be about 45' or more in length. Dreyer adds that Baxendell gives its size as 52' by 75'.

Published comments

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 38 (1935)

Not revealed with 70m exposure.

Cederblad, S. (1946) [VII/231]

Ced 193 (NGC 7088)

Position (1900): RA 22 28.2, Dec - 1 10

Star: ?

Spectrum of nebula: (not classified)

Classification: Nebulae without definite relation to certain stars - Background veil of a nebulous region (eg. the Taurus veil)

Size: 75'x52'

Notes: "NGC 7088 = Baxendell's "unphotographable" nebula. Disc. Baxendell 1880 (96). (114, 180, 304, 314, 465, 595)."

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a nonexistent object. Their coded description reads NF S.

SAC database

The SAC database comments: "Baxendell's Unphotographable Nebula"

Modern observations

Steve Coe

Steve Coe, using a 17.5" f/4.5, notes: "is faint, large and elongated 2x1 E-W. This star cluster is 26' North of M2. It took a 38mm eyepiece which gives a one degree field to get some contrast surrounding this cluster. It is just a faint glow with some mottled structure and 6 stars superimposed across the face. I have heard this object called Baxendell's Unphotographable Nebula, probably because it could be seen but not photographed with older technology. In the era of long focal ratio scopes and slow emulsions, this was "unphotographable"."

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