Capella: Alpha Aurigae

φ Aurigae


Phi Aurigae isn't particularly significant, but it is the quickest way to find two Messier objects, as well as a fine binary.

M36 (NGC 1960) is a bright naked eye object, on a perfectly clear night sky. In binoculars M36 appears more compact than M38, composed of white and blue stars, which means it's comparatively young at about 25 million years old.
     M36 is about 4100 light years away, has around 60 stars easily resolved in binoculars.

M38 (NGC 1912) is the western-most star cluster of the three Messier objects found in Auriga, and the faintest of the three. It's one degree due north of phi Aurigae.
     M38 has about a hundred stars, loosely scattered. The cluster is about 60-70 million years old, young enough to still have its share of bright luminous stars. Binoculars will show a rather 'misty' gathering of diffuse stars, while larger binoculars begin to resolve the various members.

The binary here, Struve 698, is near-binocular width and has a pleasant colour contrast, yellow and blue: 6.7, 8.3; 347, 31.2" It's just half a degree northwest of phi.


Keeping the small cluster of stars, 16-19 Aurigae, in your field of view, move them to the extreme eastern edge; iota Aurigae will slide into view on the western edge: binoculars.

Just southwest of 16 Aurigae is 14 Aurigae, also known as Struve 653. This is a fine multiple star system for small telescopes:
      AB: 5.0, 10.9; 10, 10.1" (yellow and blue)
      AC: 5.0, 7.3; 225, 14.2"
      AD:5.0, 10.7; 322, 179.7"


We now move to the southern edge of Auriga, where gamma Aurigae shares its name with beta Tauri: binoculars.

On the northeastern edge is 26 Aurigae (Struve 753), yellow and blue: 5.5, 8.4; 268, 12.2".

With 26 centred, move one binocular field northeast until theta Aurigae moves into the top of your glasses; here is the last of the Messier objects, M37.

Click on M37 on the map for its description as well as for the remaining binaries in Auriga.

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1999-2014 by Richard Dibon-Smith.