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Astronomical Observatory: Cool Images

Astr110 Photography Projects, Fall 2005

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M36, Christine Hendricks and Reuben Sportel


M36 is one of three open star clusters in the constellation Auriga. An open star cluster is a cluster of thousands of stars usually found in the disk of galaxies and they often contain young stars. In this particular star cluster, there are about 60 stars whose magnitude fall between 9 and 14, which is approximately the middle of the scale. The smaller a number is, the brighter it appears in the sky, with the brightest being -6, which is the magnitude of the sun. The age of this open star cluster is relatively young being only 25 million years old. The age can be evidenced by the lack of red giants in the star cluster, which is a star in its later stages of life. M36 is about 4,000 light years away and 24 light years in diameter.

M36 was first discovered in 1654 by Giovanni Batista Hodierna and was rediscovered independently in 1749 by Le Gentil. In 1764, Charles Messier included M36 in his catalog of other astronomical objects. These stars in the star cluster are useful because they all form at about the same time and are about the same distance away from Earth.

The image above of M36 contains several large blue stars which are the most luminous and hottest stars in our image. The other stars in the image vary by color ranging from blue (hotter) to red (cooler). By combining the different exposures taken with different color filters in to one image, we were able to bring out the variety of colors in M36.

Bennett, Jeffrey, Megan Donahue, Nicholas Schneider, and Mark Voit. The Cosmic Perspective. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc, 2004.

SEDS Database

Winter Messier Objects Program

Right Ascension (J2000) 05:36:06
Declination (J2000) +34:08:00
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R)
Exposure time per filter BVR 60 seconds
Date observed

November 3, 2005 (B)
November 5, 2005 (VR)




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