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Messier 36 - The Pinwheel Cluster in Auriga

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

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 clusters 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

M36, the Pinwheel open Cluster in Auriga - ZWO ASI 1600MM-Pro Astrophotography using a Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9 reflecting telescope in the Nevada desert and with an ASI Air, LRGB


Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

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


How to Locate Messier 36

How to find the open Cluster Messier 36 in Auriga in the night sky, map

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 toward 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.

M36, the Pinwheel open Cluster in Auriga - ZWO ASI 1600MM-Pro Astrophotography single shot luminance


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!

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Clear Skies,

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