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The Kite Cluster (NGC 1664)
Open Cluster
aka Melotte 27, Collinder 56, Raab 19, OCL 411
RA: 04h51m04.4s Dec: +4342'04" (Auriga)
Integrated Visual Magnitude: 7.2
Angular Diameter: 18.0'
Distance 3900 ly
Age: 241 Myrs

Minimum requirements to detect: any telescope under country skies


This is a unique-appearing open cluster that is often overshadowed by the wealth of other clusters in the region.  The primary stars of the main cluster form a diamond-shaped outline with a trail of similar stars extending off one of the four corners.  To my eye this appears strikingly like a flying kite with tail.  Others have seen a heart-shaped balloon.  Walter Scott Houston nicknamed NGC 1664 the the "4-H cluster because it had the appearance of a four-leaf clover that most farm children recognize as the symbol of the 4-H club."

Scotty also said that NGC 1664 was "difficult in my 4-inch Clark refractor" and that the "familiar outlines of an open cluster emerge into view with a telescope somewhere between 4- and 6-inch aperture."  The majority of the stars that form the recognizable asterism are 10th magnitude.   I was quite struck by how similar the stars in the asterism appear in both magnitude and color.  In my 18-inch myriad fainter stars appear in the background, making for a very pleasing sight.

Note that the image to the right has north up and east to the left in order to better show the "kite" asterism.  To match it to the diagram below it must be rotated 180 degrees.


The field in an 6-inch at 50x.  North is down and east is to the right.

Millennium Star Atlas Vol I Chart 94
Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 5
Uranometria 2000 Vol I Chart 65
Herald-Bobroff Astroatlas B-05 C-22