M38: Open Cluster in Auriga
Open clusters are easy to find and observe in small telescopes, pretty, and scientifically important. This is a group of stars all born from a common cloud of gas and dust. Since they came from the same gas cloud they are, astronomically speaking, all about the same age and all about the same distance from us, and they all started with about the same chemical composition. Knowing that they are the same age and at the same distance, the fact that they have different appearances allows us to learn a great deal about stellar evolution – the different appearances can only be a result of the different masses of the different stars.
Sight your telescope just to the left of the middle of, and just above, this imaginary line.
If you have a wide-angle magnifying finder, you can safely point directly at the middle of the line – the cluster will be in the field of view of the finder.
If you find a small, sparse, uninteresting cluster, you may have found M36 instead, which is just the ”other” side of the imaginary line, a little farther from its centre.
In a magnified finder, the cluster should be just visible as a small fuzzy patch of light.
If you don’t have a magnifying finder, hunt around carefully with your telescope, fitted with its widest-field eyepiece.
All the above images were generated with Starry Night Pro.