M36, M37, and M38 – Three Open Clusters in Auriga

Posted in Observation Record on November 30, 2014 – 10:52 PM
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Date: November 30, 2014
Location: Home (Raleigh, NC)
Skies: Clear, reasonably steady, poor transparency, light polluted
Temp/Humidity: Upper 50’s, low humidity
Moon: Gibbous (69%)

As nights get longer and colder, Capella, the 6th brightest star visible from Earth (other than our sun) moves higher and higher in the east. It marks a corner of a large hexagonish shape which contains three messier open clusters.

Map of the constellation Auriga

Map of the constellation Auriga

M37: Starting just outside the boundaries of the hexagon, M37 appears as a small cluster of stars. This is the best cluster of the trio, in my opinion. It is quite obvious when you land on it. The stars are tightly packed and look quite nice at both 60X and 133X. It fills that TMB Planetary 9mm eyepiece quite well. That would suggest an overall size of just under 27′.

M38: I actually missed over M36 and happened upon M38. M38 has a lot of stars, the most of the trio under my skies and magnification, and seems to make an X or K shape. I was not able to see the greek letter pi as others contend. It was similar in size to M37, perhaps a little smaller.

M36: I doubled back to M36 and was easily able to find it. It’s one of the harder to find messier’s in my opinion, because it just isnt as obvious. It is a small, loosely packed cluster of stars. It did appear to have a few brighter stars which dominate the view, opposed to the other clusters where the star distribution was much more uniform. One double star (or appeared to be a double) really caught my attention. It was easily split and perhaps the highlight of this cluster.

This entry was written by matted, filed under Observation Record.
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