M36 - The Pinwheel Cluster in Auriga

Updated: Jan 13, 2020

Messier 36, just like M38, is located in Auriga at a distance of about 4,100 light years away, making it one of the farthest open cluster in the Messier Catalog.

M36 can be seen near two other open clusters, Messier 37 and Messier 38. With an apparent magnitude of 6.3, the cluster can be seen with binoculars or any small telescope.

Messier 36 is also called the "Pinwheel Cluster" although we're having some trouble seeing the shape of a pinwheel in our image.

We imaged M36 as a secondary target after having spent three hours photographing the Pleiades. It was very humid that night (really strange for Nevada) and we weren't sure if we'd be able to get a good image of it.

We only spent one hour on this target, as we didn't want to image for too long in the humidity. You can see the final result below.

Messier 36 with the ASI 1600MM


Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

Power: Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 1 hour

Exposure Time per frame: 30 seconds

Filters: L (30 minutes) / R (10 minutes) / G (10 minutes) / B (10 minutes)

Gain: 75

Locating Messier 36

Messier 36 is located in Auriga, near several other deep sky objects such as the two clusters M37 and M38, as well as the Flaming Star Nebula, IC 405.

You can easily spot these targets using a pair of binoculars and aiming them towards the bright star Capella. Then, you just have to figure out which one you are actually looking at!

Single Shot & Processing of Messier 36

With about 80% humidity and no dew heater or dew shield, we expected all our images to go to the trash. We imaged M45 right before for 3 hours, and by the time we slew to M36, our mirror looked pretty wet...

We almost decided to throw all the files away after doing a quick stack on PixInsight. The stars looked terrible. They did not look round and were fuzzy. We were able to salvage the files by drizzling using a X4 scale. The stars then looked much better and we decided to go ahead with the full processing.

We used four filters to capture M36 with our cooled monochrome camera: Luminance, Red, Green and Blue. We have attached a single 3-minute shot of M36 below, taken with our Luminance filter.

Final Thoughts

M36 is very similar to Messier 38 and is not a very popular object. We like to spend one or two extra hours at the end of our main imaging session on these small clusters before packing up and going up. That way we can add an extra "easy" target to our Messier Catalog!

Have you captured M36? Show us your image in the comments below!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter



The Astrophotographer's Guidebook

Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!

The Astrophotographer's Journal

Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloguing photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby. This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes. Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.

The Constellations Handbook

Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations. Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder. Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories? This book groups the constellations in a logical order, so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group. The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease. The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing, and a learning journey through the ages.

#astronomy #astrophotography #messiercatalog #messier #galaxy #nebula #cluster #stars #space #galactichunter #nevada #lasvegas #canon #orion #Orion #telescope #M36 #Messier36 #OpenCluster #Cluster #ZWO #ASI1600 #ASIAIR

144 views0 comments


Quick Links

Social Media

  • Galactic Hunter Facebook
  • Galactic Hunter YouTube
  • Galactic Hunter Instagram
  • Galactic Hunter Amazon
  • Galactic Hunter Flickr
  • Galactic Hunter Twitter


  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Flickr Social Icon

© 2016-2020 by Antoine Grelin.