Messier Monday: The Butterfly Cluster, M6 (Synopsis)

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne

It's hard to believe that we've almost reached the end of Messier Monday, but with a finite number (110) objects in the catalogue, we were bound to come to this point. By time November ends, we'll have captured them all! In the meantime, the months July-through-September are perfect for capturing the most southerly of all the Messier objects, and today's cluster -- Messier 6 -- is no exception!

No Messier object is closer to the galactic center than this one, and those of you farther south will have a much easier time spotting it. Nevertheless, once the skies darken after sunset, this brilliant and nearby cluster of stars offers an unparalleled treat to skywatchers, allowing a fantastic glimpse into the lives of young stars!

age credit: © Stéphane Guisard, Los Cielos de Chile, via http://sguisard.astrosurf.com/Pagim/M6-TOA-STL-RVB.html#Top. age credit: © Stéphane Guisard, Los Cielos de Chile, via http://sguisard.astrosurf.com/Pagim/M6-TOA-STL-RVB.html#Top.

Go and read the whole story, and delight in the amazing images, including an 'amateur' one that puts the pros to shame!

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You write, "for every bright, easily-identifiable “blue” star in this cluster ... there are many others that are white, yellow or red, and much dimmer!" Given that there are many background stars in that region of the sky, how can we tell which of the non-blue stars in the line of sight of this cluster actually belong to the cluster? They're too far away to show any proper motion, right?

By Mike Maxwell (not verified) on 23 Aug 2014 #permalink

Gorgeous. I live on Long Island so I'm lucky that I get to make out the Little Dipper when I do, but this gives me an idea at least of what I'm missing :)

By Sarah Jaudon (not verified) on 24 Aug 2014 #permalink

Would the night sky be significantly brighter seen from a planet in this cluster, due to the proximity of the other stars?