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.

2014 September 3
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M6: The Butterfly Cluster
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi

Explanation: To some, the outline of the open cluster of stars M6 resembles a butterfly. M6, also known as NGC 6405, spans about 20 light-years and lies about 2,000 light years distant. M6, pictured above, can best be seen in a dark sky with binoculars towards the constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius), coving about as much of the sky as the full moon. Like other open clusters, M6 is composed predominantly of young blue stars, although the brightest star is nearly orange. M6 is estimated to be about 100 million years old. Determining the distance to clusters like M6 helps astronomers calibrate the distance scale of the universe.

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