December 12-19, 2008: Hyades star cluster, open cluster M37, and NGC 1275

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Thursday, December 11, 2008

Constellation taurus chartHere is the transcript for my podcast about how to see the Hyades star cluster, open cluster M37, and NGC 1275.

Check out the Astronomy.com's interactive star chart to see an accurate map of your sky. It'll help you locate some of this week's key targets. Astronomy magazine subscribers have access to a slew of cool functions with StarDome PLUS.

Each week, I highlight three different night-sky targets for you to see:

  • One object you can find with your naked eyes or through binoculars
  • One object to find with a small telescope
  • One deep-sky object to find with an 8-inch or larger telescope for you avid astronomers

--Start transcript--

A starry V
This week’s naked-eye object is the V-shaped Hyades star cluster in Taurus. It’s the neighboring cluster of the better-known Pleiades (M45). And although the Hyades is closer, larger, and brighter than the Pleiades, it doesn’t look as spectacular: The bright stars just spread out too much.

The Hyades has a diameter of more than 5°, so it only looks like a cluster to your naked eyes or through binoculars. If you train a telescope toward this object, focus in on the many fine double stars the cluster contains.

Oh, and one further note: Aldebaran (Alpha [α] Tauri), Taurus’ brightest star, does not belong to the Hyades. Aldebaran lies only 65 light-years from Earth while the stars of the Hyades cluster are 150 light-years away.

Diamonds on dust
This week’s small telescope target is the Salt and Pepper Cluster, also known as M37. It lies in Auriga and is that constellation’s third and final Messier open star cluster I’ll discuss in this series of podcasts.

In fact, most observers consider M37 Auriga’s best deep-sky object. Through a 4-inch telescope, 50 stars — evenly matched in brightness — scatter uniformly across a field of view 10' wide. Look for the brightest member, a 9th-magnitude star that glows with an orange hue, near the cluster’s center. You’ll have no problem picking out M37 from the rich Milky Way star field that stretches throughout this part of the sky.

Dig deep for more treasure
This week’s deep-sky object is NGC 1275, the brightest member of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, which lies in the constellation Perseus the Hero. This group is part of the Pisces-Perseus Supercluster, which contains about 1,000 galaxies. The Perseus Galaxy Cluster also goes by the name Abell 426.

This name comes from American astronomer George Abell, who identified and cataloged 2,712 galaxy clusters in 1958. With the inclusion of southern-sky galaxy clusters since then, the catalog has grown to 4,073 galaxy clusters.

To find NGC 1275, look 2° east of Algol (Beta [β] Persei). Through a telescope, this galaxy appears bright, small, and nearly circular. Don’t confuse it with NGC 1272, a similar galaxy just 5' to the west. NGC 1275 is slightly brighter, at magnitude 11.7. NGC 1272 shines at magnitude 12.

Through a 10-inch telescope, you’ll spot a dozen galaxies in a field of view 1° across. Most lie south and west of NGC 1275. Here’s a region of sky where increased telescope aperture really pays off. As you look through larger telescopes, you’ll see more galaxies, and the ones you’ve seen already will show more detail.

--End transcript--

Previous episode: Kemble's Cascade, open cluster M36, and barred spiral galaxy NGC 925
Previous episode transcript

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