The Starfish and the Flaming Star combine to create a rich star field in the Charioteer.
I shot this last week, using a favourite small refractor that takes in a generous field of view for a telescope. In this case, it frames the star cluster at left called the Starfish Cluster, or better known as Messier 38. At right the large number 7-shaped patch of nebulosity is the Flaming Star Nebula, known by its catalog number as IC 405. At bottom, the nameless companion nebulas are IC 417 at left and IC 410 at bottom centre.
Of note is the colourful grouping of six stars at right called the Little Fish. It’s not a proper star cluster but an asterism, a chance alignment of stars that happens to look like something imaginative. David Ratledge presents a nice list and photo gallery of similar whimsical asterisms at his Deep-Sky.co.uk website.
The entire field is a rich hunting ground for the eyepiece or camera. You can find it these nights, in winter from the northern hemisphere, straight overhead in the evening, in the middle of Auriga the Charioteer.
For this portrait I shot and stacked eight 7-minute exposures at ISO 800 using a filter-modified Canon 6D on my TMB 92mm apo refractor at f/4.8.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
– Alan, February 14, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer