M35 is a large open
cluster in Gemini with many bright stars. It is a favorite for
small telescopes and is just visible to the unaided eye as a
sparkling point of light. Over a century ago Garrett P.
Serviss wrote in Astronomy with an Opera-Glass, "No one
can gaze upon this marvelous phenomenon, even with the comparatively
low powers of an opera-glass, and reflect that all these swarming
dots of light are really suns, without a stunning sense of the
immensity of the material universe."
Yet, in a universe
characterized by "billions", M35 lies only about 3000
light years away and is a mere 177 million years old.
This image from the DSS
shows a 50' x' 50' field. North is down and east is to the right.
Photographs do not do M35 (center) justice! In the
telescope, the nearby NGC 2158 (upper left) can be a difficult
Walter Scott Houston wrote
of M35 as seen in a 10-inch, "The view was too beautiful to
describe with mere words. Bright stars were scattered with
cosmic recklessness across the field, and it was difficult to
establish where the cluster's edges dissolved into the stellar
background. There were dozens of curving star chains.
Everywhere I looked I could see between the stars into the black
depths of infinity."
Although Scotty also
wrote that, "M35 is one of the few clusters that loses its
charm if you view it with too large a telescope," I was happy
to see that it is still an excellent target for larger apertures.
My favorite view in my 18" was at 165x. The many bright
stars formed a tapestry that filled the field of view. Still
rich in stars, you could nonetheless scan in all directions and
still be within the cluster. So homogeneous are the colors of
the stars that one of the brightest stood out although it sports
only a very slight orange tint.
The view in a 6-inch at 55x. North is down,
east is right,
NGC 2158 is a much
smaller and fainter open cluster that lies quite nearby.
Comparing this cluster to its neighbor is a wonderful study in
contrast. NGC 2158 has a beauty all its own; where M35 is a
bright and widely scattered, NGC 2158 shimmers faintly; M35 is loud,
whereas NGC 2158 is a quiet interlude. Much of the difference
is due to distance. NGC 2158 is over five times farther away,
nearly 16,000 light years. It is also ten times older.
my 18" at 100x NGC 2158 looked very much like a faint,
unresolved globular with a smattering of brighter stars strewn over
it. At 425x the faint stars became resolved and the shape
appeared too irregular to be a globular, taking on the appearance of
an arrow head.