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Double Cluster of Perseus in northwest evening sky

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Tonight for February 10, 2015

To find the gorgeous Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus, face north to northwest as darkness falls this evening. Here you can find the Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus. These are two open stars clusters, known as “H” and “Chi” Persei (also called NGC 884 and 869).

Finding the Double Cluster with the constellation Cassiopeia. Image credit: madmiked

How to find them? First, you need a dark sky. Second, you may need binoculars, as the Double Cluster is only faintly visible to the unaided eye – even on an inky black night. Look for the famous constellation Cassiopeia in the northwest, forming a backwards “3,” or perhaps an “E,” or the letter “M” or “W” turned on its side. Just above Cassiopeia, assuming your sky is dark enough, you’ll see a faint fuzzy patch. This is the Double Cluster, which blooms into a sparkling array of stars through binoculars or a small backyard telescope.

Double Cluster in Perseus: Two star clusters

These two open star clusters reside an estimated 7,400 light years away. Each contains 300 to 400 stars. These stars are thought to be approximately three million years old … babies in star time! The stellar gas and the myriad stars that compose the flat disk of our Milky Way galaxy pass right through Cassiopeia and Perseus – and in front and behind the Double Cluster. If your sky is dark enough, you’ll see the hazy pathway of the winter Milky Way crossing this part of the sky.

The Double Cluster was charted by skywatchers as early as 150 B.C. Hipparchus saw it, and Ptolemy named it as one of seven “nebulosities” in the Almagest, an ancient astronomy text used for over a millennium. The Double Cluster in Perseus ranks as a favorite among stargazers, a bejeweled place in the heavens to zoom in on with binoculars.

For the early bird

If you're up before dawn, let the moon introduce you to the constellations Libra and Scorpius during the next few days.

If you’re up before dawn, let the moon introduce you to the constellations Libra and Scorpius during the next few days.