From Universe Today: “Messier 46 – the NGC 2437 Open Star Cluster”


Universe Today

12 June , 2017
Tammy Plotner

The open star clusters of Messier 46 and Messier 47, located in the southern skies in the Puppis constellation. Credit: Wikisky

During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noted the presence of several “nebulous objects” in the night sky. Having originally mistaken them for comets, he began compiling a list of them so that others would not make the same mistake he did. In time, this list (known as the Messier Catalog) would come to include 100 of the most fabulous objects in the night sky.

The Messier catalogue comprises nearly all the most spectacular examples of the five types of deep sky object – diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae, open clusters, globular clusters, and galaxies – visible from European latitudes. Furthermore, almost all of the Messier objects are among the closest to our planet in their respective classes, which makes them heavily studied with professional class instruments that today can resolve very small and visually spectacular details in them. A summary of the astrophysics of each Messier object can be found in the Concise Catalog of Deep-sky Objects.

Since these objects could be observed visually with the relatively small-aperture refracting telescope (approximately 100 mm, or four inches) used by Messier to study the sky, they are among the brightest and therefore most attractive astronomical objects (popularly called “deep sky objects”) observable from Earth, and are popular targets for visual study and photography available to modern amateur astronomers using larger aperture equipment. In early spring, astronomers sometimes gather for “Messier marathons”, when all of the objects can be viewed over a single night. [So, Wikipedia]

One of these objects is the open star cluster known as Messier 46, which is located about 5,500 light years away in the southern Puppis constellation. Located in close proximity to another open cluster (Messier 47), this bright, rich cluster is about 300 million years old and is home to many stars – an estimated 500 – and some impressive nebulae too.

See the full article here .

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