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BinocularUniverse:AuriganTreasuresNewArticlesin

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Headoutsidethiseveningandtakealookhighoverhead.Ifyouliveinmidnorthern
latitudes,youwillfindalonebeaconcrestingnearthezenithastheskydarkens.That's
Capella,theAlphastaroftheconstellationAurigatheCharioteer.Tracingbackto
ancientRome,thenameCapellatranslatesas"SheGoat,"areferencetothepositionit
holdsinthepictureoftheCharioteer.Heisoftenportrayedasholdingagoatandtwo
kidsinhisarms.

Above:WinterstarmapfromStarWatchbyPhilHarrington.

Finderchartforthismonth'sBinocularUniverse,adaptedfromTUBA,
www.philharrington.net/tuba.htmToday,weknowthatCapellaisactuallyabinarystar
systemlyingsome42lightyearsaway.EachofCapella'ssunsisclassifiedasatypeG
yellowstar,likeourSun.Thatmeansthatallthreehaveroughlythesamesurface
temperature,althoughouryellowdwarfSunisonlyaboutonetenthaslargeaseitherof
theCapellagiants.ThereislittlehopeofspottingthetwoCapellacomponentstars
througheventhelargesttelescopes,sincetheyareonlyseparatedbyabout60million
miles,lessthanthedistancefromtheSuntoVenus.TheCharioteerspentagonalbody
highlightsawonderfulareaofthewinterskytoscanwithbinoculars.There,youwillfind
threeoftheseasonsbrightestopenstarclustersaswellasanarrayoflesserknown
targets.M38,oneofAuriga'sthreeMessieropenclusters,iscentrallypositionedwithin
Aurigaspentagonalbody.GiovanniBatistaHodierna(15971660),astronomeratthe
courtoftheDukeofMontechiaroonSicily,discovereditalongwithM36andM37through
a1inchrefractoraroundtheyear1654.Don'tbesurprisedifyoucan'tseeM38atfirst
glancethroughyour21stcenturybinoculars,however.Thisclustercanbetoughtopick
outfromamongthesurroundingstars.WhilelookingforM38,you'llprobablyalsonotice
M36,asecondfuzzyglowsnuggledbetweentwofaintfieldstarsabouthalfabinocular
fieldtotheeast.M36issmallerandmorecondensedthanM38,makingiteasiertospot.
Ifyouhaveagoodeyeandfairlylargebinoculars,youjustmightalsoseeafewfaint
starspeeringbackatyou.Telescopesrevealthatthecluster'sbrighteststarsfallintoa

crookedYpattern.ThethirdMessieropenclusterinAurigaisM37,foundabouta
binocularfieldeastofM36.Sinceitsbrighteststarsshineatonly9thmagnitude,M37is
usuallyseenasafaint,mistypatchoflightthroughbinoculars.InadditiontotheMessier
mnagetrois,Aurigacontainsotherenticingopenclusters.OneisStock10,located
about4westnorthwestofThetaAurigaeand4northofM36.Thecluster'sthree
brightestmemberslieinasmallarcof6thmagnitudestarsthatseasytoidentify.Doyou
evergetthefeelingthatyou'rebeingwatched?Youshouldwhenyou'reviewingM38.
Justtothecluster'ssouth,there'safungroupingofstarsanasterismthat
collectivelylooklikethesmilingfaceoftheCheshireCatfromAliceinWonderland.
That'showCNmemberBenCacacefromNewYork,NY,firstputitwhenhebumpedinto
thepatternbackin2002.Hedescribeditas"madeupof8starsrangingfrom5thto7th
magnitude,with2starsfortheeyesandanother6inanarcforthemouth."Depending
onwhenyoulooktowardAuriga,theCatmaybelyingonitssideorstandingupside
down,souseyourimagination.NoticehowtheCatappearstobeblushing,createdbya
faintwispwhereitsright(northern)cheekwouldbe?That'sNGC1907,aseparateopen
clusterdirectlyadjacenttoM38.Binocularsshowonlyahintofthecluster,asnoneofits
starsshinesbrighterthan10thmagnitude.Collectively,theycreatean8thmagnitude
targetthat'swithinreachofmy10x50sonclear,darknights.There'sanother,even
brighterasterismofhalfadozenstarstotheCat'ssouthwestthatcanactuallybeseen
withtheunaidedeyegivenfairlydarkskies.Itsplottedonthechartaboveas
Harrington4(abbreviatedHrr4),itslistinginTouringtheUniversethroughBinoculars.
Someimagineitasaminnow,buttome,itlooksmorelikealacrosseracket.Fourstars
17,18,19,andIQAurigaemakeuptheracket'snet,while14and16Aurigaeform
thehandle.Itmusthavebeensomegame,sincethehandleappearsbentorevenbroken
inthemiddle.

Left:M38,NGC1907,andtheCheshireCat,asportrayedthroughtheauthor's16x70
binoculars.Northisup.ScanningnorthwardbacktowardCapella,pauseatthediamond
shapedasterismformedbythe5thmagnitudestarsLambdaandRhoAurigae,andSAO
40248and40290.LikeCapellaandourSun,LambdaisaspectraltypeGstar,andmay
showaslightlyyellowishtintthroughbinoculars.Theotherthreediamondstarsareall
hotter,typeAwhitestars.LiketheLacrosseRacket,Auriga'sDiamondcanbeseen
withoutanyopticalaidasahazysmudgeoflight.SomestaratlasesnotethatSAO40290
belongstoaweaklyconcentratedopenstarclusterknownasCollinder62.You'rehard
pressed,however,totelltheclusterstarsapartfromthoselyingeitherinfrontor
behind.Finally,let'sfollowatrailblazedbyCNmemberMathewWedel(mwedel)inapost
hemadetotheDeepSkyforuminJanuary2010.Hesuggestedbyextendingalinefrom
CapellathroughMenkalinan(BetaAurigae)another8.5totheeast,you'llcometoa
prominentcrossshapedasterismoffive5thmagnitudestars.Inhispost,hecommented
"Inoticedthisforthefirsttime...whenIwashuntingdownNGC2281withmy15x70

binoculars.Iliketheasterismbetterthanthecluster!Wellworthseekingout."Wedel's
CrossiscenteredonthestarPsi5Aurigae(RA06h46.7m,Dec+4334.6'),and
includesPsi2,Psi4,andPsi7Aurigae,aswellas16Lyncis.AsforNGC2281itself,my
10x50binocularsshowanebulouswispsurroundingatightcentralknot.Uppingmy
gameto16x70binocularsrevealsthiscentralknottobeadiamondpatternoffour8th
magnitudesunsaswellasasmatteringofotherclusterstarsasymmetricallydistributed
totheirsoutheast.Herearethestatisticsfortheseandothertargetsinthismonth's
BinocularUniverse.

Nextmonth,weresettingsailsouthwardtosurveysomeofthewondersofPuppis.
Meanwhile,besuretopostyourobservationsandsketchesinthisarticle'sdiscussion
forum.Andifyouhavesuggestionsforfuturecolumns,pleasedropmealineat
phil@philharrington.net.UntilMarch,rememberourcreed:Twoeyesarebetterthanone!

AbouttheAuthor:PhilHarringtonistheauthorof9booksonastronomy,includingTouring
theUniversethroughBinoculars.Visithiswebsiteatwww.philharrington.net.Phil
Harrington'sBinocularUniverseiscopyright2012byPhilipS.Harrington.Allrightsreserved.No
reproduction,inwholeorinpart,beyondsinglecopiesforusebyanindividual,ispermittedwithout
writtenpermissionofthecopyrightholder.