Universe Watch – The Butterfly Cluster

A few days ago we looked at the Open Cluster known as M7. Today we look at another Open Cluster which is in close proximity in the sky to it……. the Butterfly Cluster or M6. This is a great cluster of stars to look at and is actually visible with the naked eye, though a good pair of binoculars or your telescope will give you a more detailed view.


M6 Butterfly Cluster

M6 Butterfly Cluster (Click to Enlarge)

When  you observe the  Butterfly Cluster you will see it consists of about 80 young blue stars and a solitary yellow or orange super giant which outshines the rest of the cluster.


M6 was actually discovered way back in 1654 ,twelve years after Galileo Galilei died. In 1959, it was then estimated that the Butterfly Cluster was about 2000 light years away but some believe that this is wrong and that M6 is actually a lot closer….. perhaps even only 1300 light years away. So you will find different sources these days split between distances of 2000 light years or a much more conservative figure of 1600 light years.

When you look at the sky tonight, if the weather reports are wrong and the cloud actually disappears from over Sydney, you will see as shown in the picture below that the sky west of sydney tonight is packed with objects to see all in close proximity in the sky to each other.

There are various nebulae grouped here, such as the Swan Nebula, Lagoon Nebula and the Triffid Nebula. The Moon is once again in our night skies and will be setting at about 11:26pm. And for those of you who have larger telescopes, Pluto is also hidden among all those Nebula….. but it will be diffacult to see with it’s magnitude of 14.10.



( Click to Enlarge)

As we have not had good observing conditions for the last few nights, tonight looking much the same, you obviously can’t look at the obects each night. But if you compare the sky charts in Universe Watch looking at M7 and M6, you will see the only difference between the two charts is that the Moon was not above the horizon when we looked at M7. Everything else at 9pm is pretty much in the same place.


Therefore you can pretty much use these sky charts later in the week , preferably around 9pm Sydney time as that is when these charts were done, as a guide to help you find the object you are trying to observe.

~ by sydneystargazers on October 22, 2009.

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