As soon as dusk fell during my trip to Namibia in august '16 all attention would be on the majestic milky way, about to pass overhead. The combined light of billions of sun-like stars, shining overhead, lightens up the sky so brightly that it casts shadows on the ground, and makes it feel like it's not quite fully dark outside yet, as if the moon were still in the sky somewhere.
The milky way would set at 3am in the west, forming a an almost perfectly horizontal band along the horizon. The sky has become noticeably darker, and it would seem as if it were possible to look deeper into space now that the distracting milky way with its multitude of bright stars in Centaurus has gone under.
The darkening sky soon gives way to a sea of very faint stars, not quite visible when trying to look directly at them, but barely perceptible with peripheral vision. With the void come unfamiliar constellations, like Caelum, Reticulum, and, wedged between the mighty constellation Eridanus and Sculptor, the constellation Fornax.
There, far away from the plane of the milky way, distant wonders become visible. One such wonder is the Fornax Cluster, a grouping of at least 108 1)Substructure and dynamics of the Fornax Cluster individual galaxies. Unlike its larger twin the Virgo Cluster, this one contains two relatively large galaxies, beautifully barred spiral NGC 1365 and lenticular/elliptical galaxy NGC 1316.
The core of the Fornax Cluster is centered around NGC 1399, a giant cD-type galaxy. Only the outskirts of the core of the cluster is visible in lower right of the field. A smaller sub-cluster is located 3 degrees to the south-west, near giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. In this wide field image, at least 45 galaxies are visible.
Slightly northeast of Fornax A is a beautiful couple NGC1326A/B in the process of merging. The density waves cause new rounds of vigorous star formation, as evidenced by the blue color of hot, young stars. The smaller one actually shows evidence of a curved tidal stream of young, hot stars being ejected from the host galaxy. I don't know if this pair is actually part of the Fornax Cluster.
Just 23' southeast of Fornax A lies a little known (apparently) gem. This irregular shaped blob, dotted with a few bright knots, is actually a distant, irregular galaxy going by the catalog designation of ESO 301-11 or LEDA 12706. The HST observed this galaxy once in 1995, with a 80s exposure (link), and shows the edge being dotted with bright sources. It looks like a starburst galaxy. I'd love to learn more about this peculiar object!
The following excerpts are 150% crops of the original detailing the largest members that form the core of the Fornax Cluster. The scale is 1.3"/pixel, and each image spans about 6.5'.
Finally, a selection of interesting field objects that are unrelated to the Fornax Cluster.
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