FromQuarkstoQuasars

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 12/17/14 — Messier 47

Jaime TrosperDecember 17th 2014
Image Credit: ESO
Image Credit: ESO

This fantastic new image from the ESO focuses on Messier 47, as seen by the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Messier 47 is comprised of an open cluster of stars situated about 1,600 light-years from our humble abode, in the constellation of Puppis.

You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it, but Messier 47 is actually one of the least densely populated open star clusters in the galaxy. Across the 12 light-years of spacetime the cluster inhabits, only about 50 stars are spread throughout. Whereas, other notable clusters, many of which are included in the Messier catalog, generally hold hundreds, if not thousands, of stars.

Its ‘neighbor’ is counted among them. Called Messier 46, this open cluster of about 500 stars is technically much farther away — about 5,500 light-years distant (roughly 4,000 light-years farther than Messier 47) — yet they appear close together in the sky. The distance, paired with the fact that Messier 46 is the older of the two, Messier 47 is brighter from Earth.

However, the stars it does have are impressive. As you can see, it has numerous red and blue stars, each represents a high-mass star with an exceptionally hot temperature, or an older, therefore cooler, star. If you aren’t noticing a pattern here, let me refer you to a section in the ESO’s press release:

The ESO’s new snapshot was taken as a part of its Cosmic Gems program.

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