Open and Globular clusters - Glittering Lights - Marco Lorenzi
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M46 & M47: Star Clusters Young and Old

M46 & M47: Star Clusters Young and Old

Many stars form in clusters. Galactic or open star clusters are relatively young swarms of bright stars born together near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Separated by about a degree on the sky, two nice examples are M46 (lower left) 5,400 light-years in the distance and M47 (upper right) only 1,600 light-years away toward the nautical constellation Puppis. Around 300 million years young M46 contains a few hundred stars in a region about 30 light-years across. Aged 80 million years, M47 is a smaller but looser cluster of about 50 stars spanning 10 light-years. But this portrait of stellar youth also contains an ancient interloper. The small, colorful patch of glowing gas in M46 is actually the planetary nebula NGC 2438 - the final phase in the life of a sun-like star billions of years old. NGC 2438 is estimated to be only 3,000 light-years distant and likely represents a foreground object, only by chance appearing along our line of sight to youthful M46 (text adapted from APOD).

Apo TEC140 (140/f7.2) - FLI Proline 16803 - R (120m) G (120m) B (120m) - Warrumbungle Observatory, Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia

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