Messier 36, 37, 38 (M 36, 37, 38)

Introduction | Map | Pseudo Photo (Starry Night 7) | My Own Observations | References

On this page I collect my observations of the open star clusters M 36, M 37, and M 30 in the constellation Auriga.



Auriga (with main star Capella) belongs also to the constellations that were more or less unknown to me thus far. At the core the constellation forms a hexagon if you take it exactly, but it is likely that you will perceive only a pentagon... This is a very striking pattern, but it is located very high up in February, so you have to look steeply upwards to see it. Perhaps this is a reason for my ignorance with respect to it...

In Auriga there are three more striking Messier objects, the open star clusters M 36, M 37, and M 38. They are located almost on a line, which projects from the outside into the hexagon. The exact sequence is: M 37 (outside) - M 36 Inside) - M 38 (further inside).

M 36   M 37   M 38
Size: 12' (Stoyan)
Distance: 3,300 light years (Stoyan)
Rating: *** (Stoyan)
     Size: 16' (Stoyan)
Distance: 4,500 light years (Stoyan)
Rating: *** (Stoyan)
     Size: 25' (Stoyan) - nearly moon size
Distance: 3,500 light years (Stoyan)
Rating: *** (Stoyan)



M 37, M 36, and M 38 in Auriga (large overview map)


Pseudo Photo (Starry Night 7)

Pseudo photo of M 37, M 36, and M 38 taken from Starry Night 7 (large version, larger version)


My Own Observations

Observations February 2017

On the first day, I looked with the Heritage 100P (4" Dobsionan) for all three star clusters, and found two of them without a doubt, namely the inner clusters M 36 (which is regarded as the most beautiful and therefore probably got the lowest number "36") and M 38. I was able to find M 36 more easily and reproducible, whereas I had some problems with finding M 38. But despite all the efforts, I was not able to find M 37. Whether this was due to a wrong alignment of the telescope, I do not know. In any case, it was very difficult for me to point the LED finder at these three targets because they were so high up in the sky. I therefore tried it on "good luck". Here a 90° angle finder would surely have served me well!

The trials with my GSD 680 (8 "Dobsonian) the next day showed another pattern: I did not find M 38, but found M 37 and M 36. M 37 appeared to me more beautiful this time, and M 36 not quite as beautiful. On the third day, I found all three open star clusters with the Heritage 100P on the GoTo mount. This time my verdict was: M 36 appeared to me most beautiful, M 38 came in second, and M 37 was a little weaker than the other two clusters...

On February 26 (new moon), I once again accessed all three open star clusters with the Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount and found them all. M 36 was the smallest, but brightest cluster with comparatively few stars, M 37 was relatively faint and in small magnification almost just a glimmer, whereas M 38 was the largest cluster, but also fainter than M 36.

The visibility and rating of the three star clusters thus fluctuated quite a bit. But at least one can state that all the three star clusters were more or less well recognizable even when using a 4" telescope.




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