Messier 41-50


M41 (NGC 2287), Canis Major. RA 06:46, DEC -20:44

M41 is an open star cluster with about 100 members, some of the cluster’s central stars are red giants, the brightest one being 700 times more luminious than the Sun. M41 is 230 million years old, 26 light years across, and is travelling away from us at 34 km/sec. It is nearly 4 degrees south of the brightest star Sirius, and as with most open clusters it is appreciated best with low power although larger telescopes and higher power will uncover the red giants. M41 is at magnitude 4.5

Open cluster M41



M42, The Orion Nebula (NGC 1976), Orion. RA 05:35 4, DEC -05:27

The Orion Nebula is the famous star forming region in Orion’s sword, it shows up even in the smallest binoculars, and can be seen with the naked eye under good conditions. The Orion Nebula is the brightest stellar nursery and diffuse nebula in the sky and covers an area bigger than four times the full Moon. M42 is a vast cloud of interstellar gas and dust about 1,600 light years away. M42 is the brightest part of a much bigger dust cloud which actually covers half the constellation of Orion. M43 is part of M42 but but is seperated from the main nebulous area by a dark dust lane, this is the part above the main nebula area that is shown on photos. The whole nebula glows bright due to it’s gas being excited by powerful radiation emitted from the young hot stars that are within it. This is a classic deep sky showpiece that everyone should see. M42 is at magnitude 4.0

M42 The Orion Nebula



M43 (NGC 1982), Orion. RA 05:35 6, DEC -05:16

M43 is part of the M42 region of diffuse nebula and star birth, it is the smaller nebula at the north east of the main M42 nebula. M43 has it’s own star cluster within it that has been born from the gas cloud. The dark dust lanes that seperate the two nebula are visible in 8 inch scopes. Both M42 and M43 are part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a vast dust cloud hundreds of light years across. M43 is at magnitude 9.0

M43 Nebula



M44, The Beehive Cluster (NGC 2632), Cancer. RA 08:40 1, DEC 19:59

M44, The Beehive Cluster is an open star cluster at 577 light years away, 730 million years old, and has 350 stars. It has at least 4 orange giants, and 5 white dwarfs. It is one of the Messier objects that’s visible with the naked eye, and one of the nearest clusters to the solar system. It is 95 arc minutes across so it’s a fantastic sight in binoculars, although M44 is best observed in the northern hemisphere when it is quite high in the sky, usually between February and May. The Beehive Cluster is at magnitude 3.1

M44 The Beehive Cluster



M45, The Pleiades, Taurus. RA 03:47, DEC 24:07

M45, The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters is a conspicuous open star cluster 440 light years away that just about everyone can pick out. The Seven Sisters being the 7 brightest stars, but astronomers using the Gemini Observatory on Hawaii and the Spitzer Space Telescope have found up to 1,400 stars in this cluster. Surrounding the Pleiades is a light and wispy reflection nebula, but astronomers aren’t sure if this is connected to M45 or if the cluster is moving through a cloud of interstellar dust. The cluster’s most striking members are hot blue stars that have only formed in the last 100 million years. This is a large open cluster so using low power will show this stellar jewel well. M45 is at magnitude 1.6

M45 The Pleiades



M46 (NGC 2437), Puppis. RA 07:41 8, DEC -14:49

M46 is an open cluster 5,500 light years away, a few hundred million years old, and is very rich probably containing over 500 stars. Of it’s members 150 are very bright, some are 100 times more luminious than our Sun. M46 is travelling away from us at 41 km/sec. This cluster has the distinction of having  planetary nebula NGC 2438 in it’s mass of stars, although it has been found to not be an actual member because the nebula is travelling at a different speed than M46 (it can be seen in the photo north of the cluster). NGC 2438 is probably a chance line up, or it is passing through the cluster. M46 is at magnitude 6.0

Open cluster M46



M47 (NGC 2422), Puppis. RA 07:36 6, DEC -14:30

M47 is another open star cluster in Puppis, it is 1,600 light years away, and is 78 million years old. It has about 50 stars and is 12 light years across. It has less members than it’s neighbour M46 but M47 has the brighter stars, the brightest star being at magnitude 5.7. It has 2 orange giants in it’s population that are 200 times more luminious than the Sun. M47 is spread across an area the size of the full Moon, and can be spotted with the naked eye under good conditions. It can be seen together with M46 in binoculars,  M47 being a degree west of M46. M47 is at magnitude 5.2

Open cluster M47



M48 (NGC 2548), Hydra. RA 08:13 7, DEC -05:45

M48 is an open cluster about 300 million years old and 23 light years across, it is fairly noticable and can be seen with the naked eye under good conditions. It lies 1,500 light years away and binoculars will reveal about 50 stars. M48 has 3 yellow giant stars, this large open cluster is at magnitude 5.5

Open cluster M48



M49 (NGC 4472), Virgo. RA 12:29 8, DEC 08:00

M49 is a giant elliptical galaxy in the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, it is 49 million light years away, and is also one of the brightest galaxies in this famous cluster. It is 160,000 light years across, which is 60% larger than the Milky Way. A supernova (SN 1969Q) was seen in this galaxy in 1969. NGC 4467 is a neighbour galaxy that can be seen with M49. M49 is situated at the centre of a galaxy supercluster, within the Virgo Cluster. Giant galaxy M49 is at magnitude 9.4

Galaxy M49



M50 (NGC 2323), Monoceros. RA 07:03 2, DEC -08:20

M50 is an open cluster of around 200 stars 3,200 light years away, it is a fairly bright object and resembles a heart shape. It lies in quite a rich Milky Way star field. Just south of the centre of this cluster there is a red giant that stands out against the surrounding blue/white stars. M50 is at magnitude 5.9

Open cluster M50

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