Constellations of the Month
by Rick Raasch
The constellations of Taurus and Auriga lie along the winter Milky Way, and therefore contain many objects (primarily open clusters) of interest to the amateur astronomer. Some are large enough to be seen easily with the naked eye, while others need moderate telescopic apertures to appreciate. There's something for everybody!
The Hyades This distinctive star cluster marks the head of Taurus the Bull. It is one of the closest open clusters, and therefore is large, bright, and easily seen. Binoculars or a rich field telescopes show many bright stars, including the brightest star in Taurus (Aldebaran), which not a true cluster member, but rather a foreground star.
The Pleiades This is another classic open cluster. Easily visible to the naked eye, it yields a beautiful sight in binoculars. It is dipper-shaped, and about 5-7 stars can be seen with the naked eye. The slightest magnification shows about 100 stars in a compact area. Larger instruments show the fine nebulosity surrounding the brighter stars which is often seen in photographs.
M-1 The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant and shows a flame- shaped nebulosity which is about 5'by 3' in extent. It is brighter in the center, an has ragged or fuzzy edges which suggest its name. This is the object which started Charles Messier logging non-cometary objects.
NGC 1514 A large, almost 2' in diameter, planetary nebula with a rather bright central star. This object exhibits the "blinking" effect rather well. That is, direct vision shows only the star well, but averted vision causes the fainter nebulosity to pop into view. Switching between the two causes the star to "blink" on and off.
NGC 1807/1817 These two open clusters fit in the same field of view in a low power eyepiece, offering a very pleasing deep sky double. 1807 is about 8' in diameter with about 20 stars in a box or X-shape. 1817 is slightly larger, about 10' in diameter, and composed of about 75 relatively faint stars in a compact grouping reminiscent of NGC 7789 in Cassiopeia. This is a fine sight.
52 (Phi) Tau A very pretty double star which shows a yellow-white primary and a fainter blue companion.
65,67 Tau These two stars are seen as a wide double star in the viewfinder, but the telescopic view holds a surprise. The two wide stars have two fainter stars directly between them! A very nice view.
M-36 A very nice open cluster, 20-25' in diameter, composed of relatively bright stars. In excess of 100 stars are seen, in this rather concentrated cluster. Easily seen in the viewfinder, and very pretty.
M-37 This is probably the most populous of the Messier objects in this constellation. I estimate there to be over 150 stars in this impressive, tightly concentrated star cluster. It is about 20-25' in diameter, and is dominated by a bright orange tinted star at its center.
M-38 Easily seen in the finder, this cluster is about 25' in diameter, composed of over 100 stars of moderate brightness. Easily fitting in the field of view of a low power eyepiece is a companion cluster just South of M-38. This is NGC 1907, which is seen as 10-12 stars against a hazy background.
ADS 4000 A nice double star, presenting a pretty yellow-white primary and a fainter blue secondary.
ADS 5188 This is a beautiful triple star composed of a yellowish star with two blue companions forming an equilateral triangle with it. Very impressive!
Next month: Orion
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