While you are keeping a watch on Betelgeuse to see if it is returning to its usual brightness, there is another challenge waiting in the skies around the constellation of Orion, the hunter. It is to see the faint star cluster M41 with theT naked eye. Catalogued by Charles Messier in the late 18th century, M41 is a collection of about one hundred stars in a volume about 25 light years across. It lies at a distance of around 2,300 light years from Earth.
The chart shows the star field around M41 at midnight tonight looking south-west from London. Follow a line from Orion’s belt to the bright star Sirius. Then gradually shift your awareness to the location of M41 – it should appear as a faint smudge in your peripheral vision, which is more sensitive to faint objects than your direct view. Observers in the southern hemisphere should look north-east. From Sydney, it should be easier to catch M41 because it will be higher in the sky than from London.