Coathanger cluster: Looks like its title


The Coathanger cluster appears like its namesake. Image through Wikimedia Commons.

In the night from July till about November – when you have a dark sky – you may look throughout the well-known Summer Triangle for a tiny however recognizable cluster of stars. Most individuals name it the Coathanger cluster. Two different names are Brocchi’s cluster and Collinder 399. The Coathanger is a tiny asterism, or sample of stars (not a constellation).

It isn’t a real open star cluster, however solely an opportunity alignment of bodily unrelated stars.

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It appears like its namesake, making it simple to identify with binoculars and a darkish sky. But it’s a must to know simply the place to look.

Coathanger cluster throughout the Summer Triangle

Do you already know the Summer Triangle stars? If not, click here. The Summer Triangle is straightforward to identify as a big triangle within the east on northern summer season evenings. Three vibrant stars mark its corners: Deneb within the constellation Cygnus the Swan, Vega in Lyra the Harp, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle.

The Milky Way – the edgewise view into the flat disk of our galaxy – runs proper via the Summer Triangle. So there are lots of lovely little clusters right here, plus, in fact, the nice and wonderful Dark Rift of the Milky Way.

If yow will discover the Summer Triangle, yow will discover the Coathanger. Just be sure you look from a dark rural location, and have some binoculars helpful. The cluster is positioned alongside a line between two Triangle stars, Vega and Altair. The chart under illustrates the view.

The Coathanger cluster pictured on a star chart showing the Summer Triangle.
The Coathanger could be very simple to search out in the event you go 2/3 of the way in which from the brilliant star Vega to the brilliant star Altair. These are 2 of the three vibrant stars within the Summer Triangle. If you’ve got binoculars and a darkish sky, you may’t miss the Coathanger! Chart through

Albireo can assist you discover the Coathanger

… but it surely requires that you simply discover a barely fainter star, beloved Albireo. This star is positioned within the midst of the Summer Triangle. It’s additionally seen as the underside of a second asterism throughout the Summer Triangle, referred to as the Northern Cross.

Albireo is discovered on the base of the Northern Cross. See it, within the illustration under?

Dense starfield with constellation Northern Cross and Coathanger cluster circled.
The Northern Cross, with the beloved double star Albireo at its base. The little Coathanger cluster is close by. Image through Astro Bob.

Albireo to Alpha Vulpeculae to the Coathanger

Got Albireo? Now for some specifics on discovering the Coathanger. With binoculars, search for the brightest star within the neighborhood of Albireo. That star known as Alpha Vulpeculae, which seems as a double star via binoculars (although the 2 stars aren’t gravitationally sure).

Draw an imaginary line from Albireo via Alpha Vulpeculae to find the Coathanger. In most binoculars, Alpha Vulpeculae and the Coathanger match throughout the similar binocular area of view, although simply barely.

Notice that six stars type the bar of the Coathanger, whereas 4 stars make up the hook. From mid-northern latitudes, the Coathanger typically seems upside-down. That’s why some individuals name it the Ski Lift.

Hint: The Coathanger is tiny. If you retain getting misplaced whereas utilizing your binoculars, place the underside of the view on the prime of a tree (or constructing), then go out of your landmark upward till you catch sight of the thing.

Star chart with line from and through prominent stars to cluster at bottom.
Star-hop from the star Albireo to Alpha Vulpeculae, to the Coathanger cluster.
Star chart of constellation Vulpecula with stars in black on white.
View larger. | An imaginary line – drawn in purple on this chart – from the star Albireo and thru the star Alpha Vulpeculae takes you to the Coathanger. Note that the purple line doesn’t seem on the bigger model of this chart.

When must you look?

Our sky chart above reveals the celebrities as they seem from the Northern Hemisphere in center July round midnight (1 a.m. daylight saving time).

Because the celebrities return to the identical place within the sky some two hours earlier with every passing month, this sky chart additionally reveals star positions for about 10 p.m. (11 p.m. daylight time) in mid-August, 8 p.m. (9 p.m. daylight time) in mid-September and 6 p.m (7 p.m daylight time) in mid-October.

Since these stars shine from south to overhead at these occasions (as seen from the Northern Hemisphere), you may need to sprawl out on a reclining garden chair, along with your ft pointing southward. A reclining place saves neck pressure.

The Coathanger’s place is at RA: 19h 26.47′; Dec: 20o 11.93′

Star field photo with scattered stars and small but visible Coathanger asterism.
Photo of the Coathanger cluster (on the decrease proper). Image through Jean-Marie Andre Delaporte. Thank you, Jean-Marie!

Bottom line: Star-hop to the Coathanger – a tiny asterism that basically appears like its namesake – through the celebrities Albireo and Alpha Vulpeculae.

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