Messier 46, an Open Cluster

Messier 46. Image Credit: Dan Crowson
Messier 46: At 5,400 light years away, this open cluster is moving away from our solar system at roughly 44 kilometers per second, or nearly 100,000 miles per hour. Having a magnitude of around 6, Messier 46 is a bit dimmer than it’s neighbor Messier 47. However, Messier 46 is the denser of the two and has a surprise in it’s Northern portion: a planetary nebula. To see this faint nebula it is important to have dark skies and a medium sized telescope. As for the stars themselves, all it takes is a small scope to resolve them. Finding this cluster is a little difficult but if you can find the star Sirius you shouldn’t have much trouble. Once you find Sirius look 13 degrees East in your binoculars and you’ll find two open clusters: M46 and M47. Messier 46 will be dimmer but more compact.

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