January Night Sky

Auriga open clustersThe lively weather over the past few weeks has been quite tantalising. When the night sky does clear between storms it has often been very transparent, which means that you can see a good range of stars with the naked eye even near the centre of a city like Bath. But the wind is problematic for observing unless you can find a sheltered spot, well apart from any concerns about the next shower it might bring!

One attractive target in January for a quick look or longer explore is the set of 3 bright open clusters in Auriga – M36,M37, and M38 (map above).
Auriga is almost overhead at about 10pm. Alpha (Capella) is very bright (Mag 0) and the triangle of nearby stars helps identify it. The 3 clusters are near the bottom of the starmap, and can be found by sweeping south from Capella- roughly towards Betelgeuse. They make a pleasant grouping in binoculars; with a telescope you will resolve some stars, and you will see how different they are. M36 is the brightest and probably best in a small telescope, but M37 has more stars and is a wonderful sight in an 8” or bigger telescope. All 3 are worth regular visits on winter nights – and the whole area is rich in stars.