The autumn Milky Way is notable for the many star clusters in and near it that invite inspection by binoculars. Particularly attractive is the Double Cluster in Perseus. The total light of this rich scatter of stardust is equivalent to a 4th-magnitude star, so the naked eye sees it as a brighter patch of the Milky Way. In binoculars it appears as two stellar swarms each about the size of the full Moon’s disk, with some overlap.
Two other famous star clusters are in Taurus, to the south of the Milky Way:
- The Pleiades’ naked-eye appearance was neatly described by the poet Tennyson as glittering “like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.” Under good conditions, a normal eye sees six stars in this group, but some keen-eyed observers have glimpsed 12 or more without optical aid. It is a splendid sight in binoculars.
- The Hyades cluster is an easily recognized V configuration of stars close to the orange 1st-magnitude Aldebaran (pronounced al-DEB-er-ahn), but this is a foreground star that does not belong to the group. The Hyades members travel through space like a flock of geese, their paths ultimately converging toward a point near the star Procyon in Canis Minor.