December 19-26, 2008: The Kids, Pazmino’s Cluster, and the Flaming Star Nebula

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Thursday, December 18, 2008

Auriga star chartHere is the transcript for my podcast about how to see the The Kids, Pazmino’s Cluster, and the Flaming Star Nebula.

Check out the'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--

No “kid”-ding
This week’s naked-eye object is an asterism called the Kids. It lies in the constellation Auriga the Charioteer, and the asterism originates from that figure’s mythology.

As the charioteer drives through the sky, he holds a mother goat represented by the star Capella (Alpha [α] Aurigae). Now every mother goat has kids. To find them, look about 4° to Capella’s south-southwest for a thin triangle of three stars: Epsilon (ε), Zeta (ζ), and Eta (η) Aurigae.

And, just as a reminder, an asterism is a recognizable star pattern that’s not one of the 88 official constellations.

By any other name
This week’s small telescope target lies in the southwestern part of Camelopardalis. It’s Pazmino’s Cluster, also known as Stock 23. To find it, scan 5.3° northeast of magnitude 3.8 Eta (η) Persei. The cluster shines at a respectable magnitude 6.5.

Through your finder scope, Stock 23 is an unresolved clump of stars. View it through a 3-inch telescope at a magnification of 50x, however, and you’ll spot two dozen stars spread across an area 15' wide.

Four cluster stars shine brighter than 8th magnitude, including double star ADS 2426, which lies at the center. It’s a close double star with a separation of only 7". If you can’t split it at 50x, just double the power, and you’ll have no problem.

Observers began calling this cluster Pazmino’s Cluster after American amateur astronomer John Pazmino spotted it in 1977. German astronomer Jürgen Stock had cataloged it in the 1950s.

A faint flame in Auriga
This week’s deep-sky object is the Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405) in Auriga. To observe this object, first find the star AE Aurigae, which lies 4.2° east-northeast of magnitude 2.7 Iota (ι) Aurigae. The star’s energy is what causes gas in the nebula to glow.

Through an 8-inch telescope, IC 405 looks like a faint fan radiating from AE Aurigae. Visually, the object spans less than 15', despite what you’ve seen on photographs. For best results, view this object through a Hydrogen-beta filter.

Astronomers think AE Aurigae once occupied a position within the Orion Nebula. Three million years ago, gravitational interactions among stars flung AE out of the nebula. Each year, the star covers a distance roughly equal to that of Pluto from the Sun, or some 5 billion miles.

--End transcript--

Previous episode: Hyades star cluster, open cluster M37, and NGC 1275
Previous episode transcript

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