Wednesday, October 26, 2016

M34, Inside the Spiral Cluster

Binocular-Telescope view comparison

One of the things I like most about binoculars is how some of the open clusters look in them. They remind me of the aerial view a small town in middle of a rural area.  It is difficult to make out details inside the tiny agglomeration of buildings but it stands out in the panorama of scattered houses and large areas of green.

With binoculars one can see that there is something there in middle of a starry area. Sometimes, some bright stars show up inside the light nebulous patch while other times one can only see a nebulous patch with no “life” inside it. If the curiosity is enough, one can appeal to a telescope and start adding more magnification to resolve more and more stars in it until there is a point when one loses the sense of seeing an open cluster because the stars fill up the whole field of view. I personally don’t like to magnify to much in an open cluster, but just enough to resolve some of the components inside and still have some background left.

The sketch on the left was made some years ago from my city Bogotá, under a Bortle 8/9 light polluted skies. In the middle of the washed dark bluish background, there was a tiny patch with just a couple of stars in it.  

Last 21th of October I had a chance to sketch M34 again, but this time from my usual Bortle 5 location in a Chinese village. I used only 37.5x to see the cluster and while I could only resolve stars brighter than 10th magnitude, I could resolve about 20 stars in it and still get some senses of nebulosity around and outside the cluster.

M34 makes it a worth visit to a dark location, well away from city lights. Once there, it can be seen with just the eyes right outside the Milky Way River as a little nebulous patch and then through binoculars or telescope one can re-discover the wonders inside it.

Clear skies,


Edited by Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief).

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