Upstares this month

Observing Tips

If possible, observe at a dark location and when the Moon is not bright. A bright Moon will make it more difficult to see the stars and impossible to see clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Only a small telescope at lower magnifications, around 50x, is required to see the objects listed below. The planets and Moon are best observed with a telescope around 100x.

Moon Phases

Last Quarter

Thursday 4th

New Moon

Thursday 11th

First Quarter

Friday 19th

Full Moon

Saturday 27th

Messier 34 is a bright, large open cluster located in the northern constellation Perseus. The cluster lies at an approximate distance of 1,500 light years from Earth and has an apparent magnitude of 5.5. It has the designation NGC 1039 in the New General Catalogue.

Messier 34 is pretty easy to find in the sky and its stars can be resolved even in 10×50 binoculars. The cluster is located just to the north of the imaginary line drawn from Algol, the second brightest star in Perseus, to Almach, the third brightest star in the neighbouring constellation Andromeda.

The best way to view M34 is in telescopes at low magnifications. Small telescopes will reveal up to 20 stars, while larger amateur telescopes show about 80 members, many of them arranged in pairs

At 1500 lightyears away, Messier 34 is one of the nearest Messier objects to Earth.

Messier 35 is a large open star cluster located in the northern constellation Gemini. The cluster consists of several hundred stars.

The cluster has an apparent magnitude of 5.3 and lies at an approximate distance of 2,800 light years from Earth. It has the designation NGC 2168 in the New General Catalogue.

Messier 35 is the only Messier object in Gemini. The best time of year to observe it from northern latitudes is in the winter months, when the constellation is high overhead. M35 lies near the border with Taurus, Auriga and Orion.

The cluster’s brightest stars can be resolved in 10×50 binoculars. Small telescopes will reveal some of the fainter stars, while 6-inch and 8-inch telescopes at low magnifications show a field full of stars across the cluster.

Messier 36, also known as the Pinwheel Cluster, is an open cluster located in the northern constellation Auriga, the Charioteer.

It has an apparent magnitude of 6.3 and lies at a distance of 4,100 light years from Earth. M36 has the designation NGC 1960 in the New General Catalogue.

The Pinwheel Cluster contains at least 60 stars and bears a resemblance to the more famous Pleiades cluster (M45) in the constellation Taurus. The two clusters have almost the same physical size.

Messier 36 is one of the fainter open clusters in Messier’s catalogue, but it can easily be seen in binoculars and small telescopes. Binoculars will show a faint, fuzzy patch of light and small telescopes at low or medium powers will reveal just over a dozen brightest stars in the cluster, arranged in an X-type shape.  6-inch telescopes will resolve about 25 stars.

Messier 37 is an open cluster in the constellation Auriga. It has the designation NGC 2099 in the New General Catalogue. M37 is the brightest, richest and largest of the three open clusters in this constellation that were catalogued by Messier. It has an apparent magnitude of 6.2 and lies at a distance of 4,511 light years from Earth.

Messier 37 can be found by first identifying the pentagon shape formed by the brightest stars in Auriga. The constellation lies in the northern sky, to the northeast of Taurus and northwest of Gemini.

In 10×50 binoculars, M37 appears as a hazy patch of light, but 20×80 and larger binoculars reveal a very compact star cluster, resolving the brightest stars. Small telescopes will show a dozen brightest stars, while 8-inch and larger instruments reveal several hundred stars in the cluster.

Messier 42, the famous Orion Nebula, is an emission-reflection nebula located in the constellation Orion, the Hunter. With an apparent magnitude of 4.0, the Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky and is visible to the naked eye. It lies at a distance of 1,344 light years from Earth and is the nearest stellar nursery to Earth. The nebula has the designation NGC 1976 in the New General Catalogue.

The Orion Nebula is very easy to find as it is located just below Orion’s Belt, a prominent asterism in the winter sky.

The nebula can easily be seen in binoculars and small telescopes. Small telescopes at higher magnifications will reveal the four brightest stars in the Trapezium Cluster, an open cluster of young, hot, massive stars that were formed within the Orion Nebula.

Messier 44, also known as the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe (the Manger), is an open star cluster in the constellation Cancer. Praesepe is a bright, large cluster with an apparent magnitude of 3.7. It lies at a distance of 577 light years from Earth. It has the designation NGC 2632 in the New General Catalogue.

M44 is one of the nearest open clusters to Earth and can easily be seen without binoculars. It appears as a blurry patch of light to the naked eye. The cluster is best seen in binoculars and small telescopes.

Messier 45, also known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, is a bright open star cluster located in the constellation Taurus, the Bull. The Pleiades cluster has an apparent magnitude of 1.6 and lies at an average distance of 444 light years from Earth.

Up to 14 stars are visible without binoculars in good conditions, with clear skies and no light pollution. Because of the cluster’s apparent size, the best way to see it is through binoculars and small or wide field telescopes.

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