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Brocchi's Cluster

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Brocchi's Cluster
Amateur image of an asterism Collinder 399 and surroundings
Object typeAsterism
Other designationsOCl 113, OCl 113.0, C 1923+200
Observation data
(Epoch J2000.0)
ConstellationVulpecula Edit this on Wikidata
19h 25m 24s
Declination20° 11′ 00″

In visual light (V)

Related media on Wikimedia Commons

Brocchi's Cluster (also known as Collinder 399, Cr 399 or Al Sufi's Cluster) is a asterism of 10 stars. Six of the stars appear in an row, across 1.3° of the night sky. The cluster is in the south of the constellation Vulpecula, near the constellation Sagitta. Its nickname is the Coathanger. None of these ten stars are believed to be gravitationally bound to each other, thus they are not a star cluster, a fact established by the Hipparcos measurements 1997. An additional 30 or so much fainter stars are considered by some to be part of the asterism.


It was first described by the Persian astronomer Al Sufi in his Book of Fixed Stars in 964.

In the 17th century, it was independently rediscovered by the Italian astronomer G. B. Hodierna.

In the 1920s, Dalmero Francis Brocchi, an amateur astronomer and chart maker for the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), created a map of the stars for use in calibrating photometers.

In 1931, Swedish astronomer Per Collinder listed it in his catalogue of open clusters.[1]


The status of this group as a star cluster has changed in recent years. The group was considered to be a cluster for most of the 20th century. Looking at better, but imprecise metrics, a study in 1970 said that six of the brightest stars formed a cluster, the fainter four did not. Several independent studies since 1998 have determined that the stars are not a true cluster at all, but rather relatively near Milky Way stars with a close angular alignment. These recent studies are based on improved measurements of parallax and proper motion of the stars, taken by the Hipparcos satellite. Hipparcos detected up minute changes in parallax against other stars. This data was first published in 1997 and has been enhanced by subsequent orbits and cross-referencing with other readings.[2]

The "Coathanger"[edit]

How to find the Coathanger asterism: about 8 degrees NW of the W end of the arrow-shaped Sagitta constellation.
The Coathanger (Cr 399); eight of its ten stars are labelled with at least their observed (apparent) magnitudes, as is the open cluster on the same alignment of the row of six (and centred with a similar angular separation to that of these stars) just east. The westernmost star has a smaller separation than the others.

The asterism is made up of 10 stars ranging from 5th to 7th magnitude which form the conspicuous "coathanger", a straight line of 6 stars with a "hook" of 4 stars on the south side. An additional 30 or so much fainter stars to terrestrial observers are sometimes considered to be associated.

Under a dark sky, the coathanger can be seen with the naked eye as an unresolved patch of light; binoculars, zoom camera or a telescope at very low power are usually needed to view this asterism. It is best found by slowly sweeping across the Milky Way along an imaginary line from the bright star Altair toward the even brighter star Vega. About one third of the way, the Coathanger should be spotted easily against a darker region of the Milky Way. The asterism is best seen in July–August and north of 20° north latitude as compared to the closest horizon it will be upside-down (as in the picture top right of this page) when at its highest point. South of this latitude it is upright as the 'hanger' is south of the line of 6 stars.

The asterism and its immediate surroundings are a useful gauge for determining the faintest stars visible in a small telescope as there are a wide range of stellar magnitudes within the cluster easily viewed in one small patch of the sky.

There follows a table of the 10 stars commonly seen as members of the coathanger, organized by right ascension. They diverge in distance; HD 182955 and that suffixed -620 are, quite considerably,[3] mutually the closest but certainly not gravitationally bound. The former has a proper motion on the second axis of −47.5 mas per year; the latter one of +9.8.[3] This pair sit "across the hook" (i.e. widthways) as to their places in the asterism.

The faintest of the three bright stars, with resultant Flamsteed numbers, in this asterism is slightly dimmer than one without such a designation, and is joined by the six other stars in having a relatively similar Henry Draper catalog number, due to their position in the night sky and having sufficient apparent brightness (visible wavelength magnitude) to make the catalog.

Name Apparent
magnitude (V)
Spectral type Distance (LY)
HD 182293 7.11 K3IVp 353±0.85[3]
HD 182422 6.39 B9.5V 1124±14.6[3]
HD 182620 7.16 A2V 584±2[3]
HD 182761 6.29 A0V 413±2[3]
HD 182762 (4 Vul) 5.16 K0III 255.8±1.3[3]
HD 182919 (5 Vul) 5.60 A0V 235.3±0.8[3]
HD 182955 5.87 lM0III 577±5.4[3]
HD 182972 6.63 A1V 793±9[3]
HD 183261 6.88 B3II 1735±116[3]
HD 183537 (7 Vul) 6.33 B5Vn 910±10[3]

NGC 6802[edit]

The "rail" of the coathanger leads, east, into an open star cluster of dozens of much more distant stars, likely mostly a true cluster (being gravitationally tied or associated). Measurements put them initially at about 4,580 light years away[4] however the same authors have refined their view and state they are a further 4,420 light years away, in a report which invokes Early Gaia Data Release 3, and 6th "internal" Gaia-ESO survey measurements.[5]


  1. ^ Collinder, Per (1931). "On Structural Properties of Open Galactic Clusters and their Spatial Distribution. Catalog of Open Galactic Clusters". Annals of the Observatory of Lund. 2: B1–B46. Bibcode:1931AnLun...2....1C.
  2. ^ Baumgardt, H. (1998). "The nature of some doubtful open clusters as revealed by HIPPARCOS". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 340: 402–414. Bibcode:1998A&A...340..402B.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Vallenari, A.; et al. (Gaia collaboration) (2023). "Gaia Data Release 3. Summary of the content and survey properties". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 674: A1. arXiv:2208.00211. Bibcode:2023A&A...674A...1G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/202243940. S2CID 244398875. Gaia DR3 record for this source at VizieR.
  4. ^ 'Updated version of the `homogeneous catalog of open cluster parameters'.' LOKTIN A.V. and POPOVA M.E. Astrophysics Bulletin, 72, 257-265 (2017)
  5. ^ 'The Gaia-ESO survey: Mixing processes in low-mass stars traced by lithium abundance in cluster and field stars'. LOKTIN A.V. and POPOVA M.E. Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 651A, 84-84 (2021/7-1)

External links[edit]