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Thread: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

  1. #1
    JustinG's Avatar
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    Default What am I seeing? M36 / M38



    Hey lovely people. So I’ve been stargazing and learning the night sky for a few weeks now and I’ve been out with my binos and star charts every night that I can. Last night I was lying on my back and viewing The Auriga constellation. I had my chart out and was attempting to spot M36, M38 and hopefully IC 405, but it was more of an experiment on what my light polluted skies would show me. The seeing last night was terrific and the sky seemed rather stable and dark so I wanted to really push myself and my binos.

    What I say was a faint fuzzy patch slightly smaller, rounder, and dimmer than M31 which I viewed earlier that evening. Using averted vision, I could make out a tight cluster of very faint stars. I got excited and grabbed my chart and this is when my confusion began. M36 and M38 seem rather close to each other so I’m not certain which of the two I saw. I attempted to look nearby where the other object would be and nothing. Out of the three objects within the constellation , I was only able to make out one of them. I was starting with Aldebaran, since I’m familiar with its location thanks to Orion and Pleiades, then moved north to Elnath in Auriga and northwest from there to a cluster of six stars magnitudes ~3 and northwest a bit more to this fuzzy patch. Out of the 3 targets, M36 has the brightest apparent mag so I’m concluding that is what I saw since I could not make out the other two however, my charts show them a bit off line of where I was viewing. Am I simply overthinking this and my charts aren’t as accurate as I expected ?

    The star patch I was using to hop from Elnath to the faint fuzzy is not displayed on any chart I can find, even those would map out stars to a mag 8. If I could find that cluster on a map, I wouldn’t be so lost

    Thanks for reading
    Last edited by JustinG; 01-13-2018 at 01:40 AM.
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Those two, along with M37, are fun to find. I usually find all three together, since they are kind of in a line. If you can find all three, then distinguishing between M38 and M36 is easy. M36 is the middle fuzzy of the three, M37 is the on on the Gemini side of the line, and M38 is the other end. Another thing I use when I am starhopping to these. Near IC405 is a group of 4 bright stars (in binoculars) that form a parallelogram. Moving towards Capella from there is a string of stars in kind of a U shape that ends at M38.

    Does that help?
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Hi Justin. Have you tried looking on Stellarium Astronomy Software

    I find M37 a tad more impressive of the three Messier clusters in Auriga, overall. M36 seems to have the brighter stars, though, and likely more obvious with binoculars.

    My last session back on December 15th, I did a few comparisons with different scopes on all three clusters. Not sure if that might help with your determination.

    Here is that report: An Educational Evening

    Do check out Stellarium if you haven't already. Also, a great app for a tablet or smartphone is Sky Safari Plus or Pro. It does cost, but it's worth every cent.

    The software or the app tend to run much deeper than most atlases (though not necessarily compared to the binocular view of the sky), and can hopefully help you determine your position and your cluster.
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Quote Originally Posted by MrShorty View Post
    Those two, along with M37, are fun to find. I usually find all three together, since they are kind of in a line. If you can find all three, then distinguishing between M38 and M36 is easy. M36 is the middle fuzzy of the three, M37 is the on on the Gemini side of the line, and M38 is the other end. Another thing I use when I am starhopping to these. Near IC405 is a group of 4 bright stars (in binoculars) that form a parallelogram. Moving towards Capella from there is a string of stars in kind of a U shape that ends at M38.

    Does that help?
    Actually it does! I do recall seeing the group of parallelogram stars and the following U shape as well but I could not make out anything else. I live in heavy LP but it is quite possible I simply looked passed it. I’ll be looking up again soon since it’s clear and calm again tonight and will update you folks on my progress. Now taking what you said into account, I’m nearly certain it was M36. My view last night resembles what I’ve seen in low mag pictures.

    @Bladekeeper: I’m aware of stellarium and will not doubt get it in the future. I’ve been using Starwalk on my iPhone mostly because it’s free With that said, it’s awfully difficult to use and it’s accuracy has a lot to be desired. I’ll check out Safari and see if that helps out. All my charts I’ve been using have been in book form, I like the idea of learning “old school “ but I believe an app would allow more time for viewing and less time flipping pages and getting the page orientation correct.

    PS: I’m heading over to your report now to give a good read

    Thanks again, for the help and support
    Last edited by JustinG; 01-13-2018 at 04:32 AM.
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    M36 M37 and M38 also form a line for me. All three show as fuzzy blotches in the 10x50's and show a bit of resolution in the 15x70's. Neat targets Justin.
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Here is my first sketch of those 3 under light polluted skies using my 15x70 binos. Hope the sketch could serve you in helping identifying what you saw.


    M36, M37 and M38 Binoculars.png
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Quote Originally Posted by musiclucho View Post
    Here is my first sketch of those 3 under light polluted skies using my 15x70 binos. Hope the sketch could serve you in helping identifying what you saw.


    Nice sketch Luis!
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Luis, that is a nice sketch!

    Update:

    January 12, 2018, 2123 hours: Seeing was good again tonight, the atmosphere was calm and transparency was good as well. I grabbed my 11x70s and aimed them directly at Elnath, from there, I panned to the northwest attempting to locate the familiar guide stars I used the night prior. I came across the “parallelogram” cluster of stars that MrShorty described previously so I was on the lookout for a U shaped formation to lead me to M38, but no such luck. I realized I must be too far north and too far west. I back tracked to Elnath once more to get my bearings and this time panned directly north. The familiar groups of stars came into FOV and I was able to locate the fuzzy object in question. Now know this objects location, it was simply a process of elimination. My eyes began to adapt to the darkness and detail was popping out everywhere. Okay, I’m going on a somewhat educated guess and assuming this object is M36. Like you kind folks have mentioned before, all three object ought to be in a line with one another. Okay, so M37 ought to be due east. I panned due east with a slow, deliberate motion in sections of ~2 degrees allowing my eyes to adapt to the darkness and using averted vision to pull out faint detail. Still nothing. What the heck? I pulled my binos down and looked at Auriga’s orientation in the sky. Ah ha! I’m such a dummie! Auriga was orientated with Capella a bit west and Elnath a bit east which means I was looking in the wrong sections of the sky! If i was panning die east that would put me too far south to see M37 it in fact I was using M36 as a guide.

    I closed my eyes tight to get them dark adapted, pulled the binos up to my eyes after a few minutes and opened them. Muscle memory put me rather close to Elnath. I panned north which now I now is actually northeast, and the fuzzy cake into view. Okay silly, we need to pan east which means I will have to move the binos left and upwards ever so slightly. Using slow, deliberate moves, another fuzzy, nearly the same size and a bit fainter came into view. Now having my bearings, I panned back to the original fuzzy and realized they really were right next to each other! Okay, I’m confident this must be M36 and M37, but not positive. “They’re in a line” the voice in my head kept telling me thanks to you folks. I returned to “M36” and from all the charts I’ve been studying, I know M38 ought to be just slightly northwest of my “M36” if it is in fact M36 and not M38. I panned westward very, very slowly approx 1 degree at a time using averted vision to pull out faint detail and also to take in the entire FOV. Nothing yet. I pressed on. I started over with the original fuzzy and panned westward once again. I made smaller movements, maybe .5 degrees at a time attempting to brace the binos as steady as I could. Just as the original began to leave my FOV on the left side, some very faint, cloudy patch catches me eye. I centered the faint fuzzy and moved my binos in all directions and it moved within my FOV. It’s huge!! At that moment, I realized I had been originally looking at M36 and now I’ve found M37 and 38 as well!

    Overall impressions: M36 was the brightest and smallest object of the three, M37 was a bit dimmer, a bit larger, and not as symmetrical and M38 was by far the faintest object at about double the size and the least symmetrical of them all. Feeling invincible, I wanted to bag a couple more Messier objects since I had already viewed M31 earlier in the evening. I aimed at Orion and viewed M42 for a bit. The trapezium was certainly more vivid and detailed than on any night this year. I panned northeast to see if I could locate M78...nothing.

    5 Messier objects is a good night and it was nearly 1am and I was freezing so I called it a night.

    Thank you all for your help. I couldn’t have found them without you!
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Nice! Congrats on the scores!

    One thing you may find helpful is gaining a good familiarization on cardinal directions in the sky. Regardless of the orientation of a constellation in the sky, the directions, as applied to the sky, do not change. Yes, they can change compared to the cardinal directions we utilize here on the ground, but the night sky, in and of itself, does not.

    North, in the sky, is any movement toward the North Celestial Pole. South toward the South Celestial Pole. East is against the rotation of Earth, West with it.

    Sometimes up is north, down is north, right is north, left is north, etc. It can get a little crazy until you get your head wrapped around it.

    Good article here to help explain the concept: https://astrojourney.wordpress.com/2...-east-is-west/

    Just tossing this out there. An experienced astronomer will often note directions in the sky, and this may not translate well to others that are not familiar with the concept.

    It took me a while before I realized things were different in the sky compared to the ground. Once I had that down, things began to make a lot more sense to me.

    Apologies if you are already familiar with this.
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    Default Re: What am I seeing? M36 / M38

    Honestly and quite obviously, I had not taken that into consideration and now I can imagine how difficult it must have been to read my post Particularly where I stated M38 ought to located north west of M36 when in fact, it’s located north east on every star chart I’ve come across. You’re right, it’s something I’ll have to wrap my head around but it’s completely logical and it’s a billboard sign advertising how new I am to all this.
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