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Where to find the Small Magellanic Cloud(SMC)


The SMC is visible in the southern sky near the south celestial pole. For observers in latitudes south of  about 18 degrees south,   it never sets, but is still best observed when it's highest in the sky. If you observe at about ten pm, this will mean observing from September to January (earlier months if you observe later in the evening).


The Small Magellanic Cloud can be found by extending the long axis of the Southern Cross in the downward direction past the SouthCelestial Pole. About 6 lengths of the Southern Cross away is the SMC which is a distinct patch of haze when viewed from moderately dark skies. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a similar patch of haze nearby but significantly larger. It is located clockwise from the SMC and the South Celestial Pole is the centre of the clock (about 2/3 of the way from the bottom star of the cross to the SMC)


The SMC is an excellent target for viewing with binoculars.


Starting points for observing with a telescope


I have found that ther are two jumping off points to navigating the SMC. At the eastern end, there are 3 bright knots of luminance in the tail of the comma formed by the SMC. These are NGC 330,346 and 371. They are very obvious in a magnified finderscope and are readily identifiable with a modest telescope. Using the charts, it is fairly straightforward to "cluster hop" from these to other objects in the eastern SMC.


For the western end, I use a small right-angled triangle pattern of stars located between NGC104/47 Tuc, obvious as a bright circular fuzz, and the head of the "comma" of the bar of the SMC. I have marked this triangle on the binocular chart in light green lines. This triangle contains NGC 176 at one corner and extending a line from one side (also shown with a green line) leads to NGC 231 then NGC 242. I have found these a sufficient base for furhter cluster hopping.


Do you use Argo Navis, other setting circles or go to? You  may still find the charts of use to be sure about the identity of the object in you scope.