Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2005 November 18
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The 37 Cluster
Credit & Copyright: Noel Carboni

Explanation: For the mostly harmless denizens of planet Earth, the brighter stars of open cluster NGC 2169 seem to form a cosmic 37. (Did you expect 42?.) Of course, the improbable numerical asterism appears solely by chance and lies at an estimated distance of 3,600 light-years toward the constellation Orion. As far as galactic or open star clusters go, NGC 2169 is a small one, spanning about 7 light-years. Formed at the same time from the same cloud of dust and gas, the stars of NGC 2169 are only about 8 million years old. Such clusters are expected to disperse over time as they encounter other stars, interstellar clouds, and experience gravitational tides while traveling through the galaxy. Over four billion years ago, our own Sun was likely formed in a similar open cluster of stars.

Tomorrow's picture: Deep Thought

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