Messier 36, Open Cluster

Messier 36. Image Credit: Smoot, Star Shadows Remote Observatory
Messier 36: This is the second of 3 open clusters in Auriga we will be covering and is the second brightest of the 3. At 4,000 light years Messier 36 spans about 14 light years and is a relatively young cluster. Many of the stars in Messier 36 are quite young and are still surrounded by disks of gas and dust. This is an object of great study because by looking at these stars we can learn more about how solar systems like our own were formed. To find Messier 36 look to the bright star Capella to the Northeast. Then locate the Hexagon of Auriga and scan the area with binoculars or a finder scope. You will see 3 open clusters and Messier 36 will be in the middle of the other 2. Messier 36 will look like a spattering of stars against an otherwise uniform sky. It can be seen with small scopes in somewhat light polluted skies but to truly see all that this magnificent cluster has to offer it is best to get out of town and find dark skies. If you want an extra challenge, try to pick out the double star in the center of the cluster!

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