Messier Monday: The could-be-better cluster, M26 (Synopsis)

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.” -Neil Gaiman

When you consider the short life of a star cluster -- from a collapsing molecular cloud to a nebula rich in gas and dust to a bright cluster of shining stars until the time it dissociates -- you might think that they'd all be the same, except for a few details like mass and density profile. But then how would you explain this object?

Image credit: John C. Mirtle of http://www.astrofoto.ca/john/m026.htm. Image credit: John C. Mirtle of http://www.astrofoto.ca/john/m026.htm.

Here's a cluster, 89 million years old, whose core is almost totally devoid of stars, exactly where we'd expect it to be densest. You might think there's some leftover, nebulous dust, but in a cluster this old, that's unheard of! You might also think that there's just a stellar deficiency, but that's also unheard of!

Image credit: © 2006 — 2012 by Siegfried Kohlert, via http://www.astroimages.de/en/gallery/M26.html. Image credit: © 2006 — 2012 by Siegfried Kohlert, via http://www.astroimages.de/en/gallery/M26.html.

Come find out the story of Messier 26, the first Messier object to completely disappoint its discoverer.

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