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Binocular Objects (1): Kemble's Cascade

Kemble’s cascade is one of the finest binocular objects in the winter sky, but it is situated in one of the most difficult constellations to detect in the night sky, Camelopardalis or the Giraffe. This northern circumpolar constellation is situated in a star-barren region between Polaris, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Lynx, Perseus and Auriga. Camelopardalis culminates at midnight around Christmas. Camelopardalis has no bright stars. It's brightest is Beta, with a magnitude of 4.2. The constellation is host to a few open clusters, but has only one deep sky object for small binoculars, an asterism called Kemble's Cascade.

Kemble’s Cascade, which lies in the southwestern corner of the Giraffe, was named after the man who first reported observing it, Father Lucian J. Kemble, a Franciscan and amateur astronomer from Canada. In 1980 he wrote to Walter Scott Houston that he had found “a beautiful cascade of faint stars tumbling from the northwest down to the open cluster NGC 1502”. Walter Scott Houston, the author of the “Deep-Sky Wonders”, a column in Sky and Telescope, decided to name the asterism Kemble’s Cascade. Since then it is known under this name.

To find Kemble's Cascade, draw an imaginary line from Beta Cassiopeia through Epsilon Cassiopeia, and extend the line with the same distance (from Beta to Epsilon) using your binoculars.

Kemble's Cascade

Finder chart for Kemble's Cascade and NGC 1502 (generated with Sky Tools 2 by Capella Soft)

There you will find Kemble's Cascade, a string of 15 to 25 stars (depending on which binoculars you use) ranging from the 5th to the 9th magnitude, spread over an area of 2.5 degrees (5 full moons). The stars seem to cascade from the northeast down to the southwest. They do not form a group or cluster physically, it's only a chance alignment of stars, but it is unique in its appearance. At the southeastern end of the chain of stars you will find the 6th magnitude open cluster NGC 1502, containing 15 stars in a 7' area. Kemble’s cascade can be viewed best in 7x50 binoculars. You just might detect a hint of NGC 1502. The 15x80 binoculars show NGC 1502 a bit better, but they leave to little space for Kemble’s Cascade to stand out from its surroundings.

Kemble's Cascade

Kemble's Cascade and NGC 1502 through 15x80 binoculars; Limiting magnitude of 10; The circle representing a field of view 3.5 degrees. (generated with Sky Tools 2 by Capella Soft)

For more info and a color image of Kemble’s Cascade please follow this link.

Basic data on NGC 1502

ID: NGC 1502
Type: Open cluster
Constellation: Camelopardalis
RA: 04h:07m:43s
DEC: +62°20'00"
Magnitude: 5.8
Size: 8.0’
Map number Sky Atlas 2000: 1
Map number Millennium SA: I-43
Map number Uranometria 1: I-18

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