…continuedFuzzies in Your Future:
An Introduction to Deep-Sky Objects
First of all, the Milky Way features not just countless stars but hundreds of eye-catching open clusters. Each open cluster is a gravitationally bound clan of anywhere from several dozen to several hundred stars. These clusters span a wide range of ages, but typically they are no more than a few hundred million years old mere toddlers compared to our 4.6-billion-year-old adult Sun. Many open clusters are comparatively large and bright. Binoculars are excellent for spotting them against the celestial background.
A splendid example is Messier 35 (M35). Located 2,800 light-years away in the constellation Gemini, M35 contains about 200 suns. In 7×50 binoculars, you might count half a dozen stars sprinkled against a coarsely textured haze spanning nearly a half degree (nearly the apparent size of the full Moon). Viewed through a telescope at low magnification, M35 fills the eyepiece field with curving chains of stars.
Globular clusters are quite different. Our galaxy's halo is dotted with about 150 globulars, each a dense ball of several hundred thousand stars. And get this: their stars are 12 to 13 billion years old, making the globular clusters the senior citizens of the Milky Way.
One of the finest globulars in the northern heavens and certainly the easiest to track down is Messier 13 (M13), the Great Cluster in Hercules. Some 21,000 light-years distant, M13 shows up in binoculars as a faint, out-of-focus "star." However, a 6- or 8-inch (150- to 200-mm) telescope used at moderately high magnification (100× or 150×) can resolve the blur into a hive of glowing dots.