(by Anne Neave)
High in the winter sky the constellation Auriga forms a lovely multi-sided figure of stars. The brightest star in Auriga is Capella and this can be found by drawing a straight line from Orion's belt up between his shoulders to the brightest star overhead. Auriga has been known since ancient times as a charioteer carrying a goat on his shoulder. The goat star, Capella, is the sixth brightest star in the night sky. It is unusual in that it is formed of two yellow companion stars and a pair of red dwarf stars.
To the right of Capella, also visible by eye, is Epsilon Aurigae. Also known as Almaaz, this is a white super giant star which eclipses once every 27 years when a mysterious companion passes in front of it. The eclipse lasts about two years, the most recent beginning in 2009 and ending in the spring of 2011.
Auriga is home to three star clusters which you can observe through binoculars. M36 is an open star cluster of about 60 young blue and white stars. Have a look through the cluster for numerous double stars.
M37 is the best open star cluster in Auriga with about 170 bright stars forming a rough trapezoid shape.
M38 is the dimmest of the three clusters in the centre of Auriga and has been compared in shape to the Greek letter pi.