Auriga Star Clusters, November 22, 2006. Here are two of the three open star clusters associated with the constellation Auriga. The concentration of stars to the upper left of centre is a cluster called M38. Below it is a smaller cluster called M36. These open clusters of stars both formed out of massive clouds of dust and gas. M38 is the older of the two at about 220 million years, and it's a beautiful object to explore with a high power telescope. M36 by comparison is a youngster, having formed only 30 million years ago. This image also has bright and dark nebulae. The patch of pale magenta on the upper edge, right of centre is IC 405, also called the Flaming Star Nebula. It's a cloud of glowing hydrogen gas. What looks like a hole in the sky on the bottom edge of the image, left of centre is Barnard 34, a massive cloud of dust that is blocking the star light behind it.
This is part of the Milky Way, and in fact the plane of our galaxy runs diagonally through the centre of the image. The bright star on the lower right is called Elnath, and it's on the border between the Auriga and Taurus constellations. This is a 30 minute, guided photograph.
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