More Shapely Star Clusters

Jack Kramer

Back some time ago, I did an article on open star clusters in the winter skies that have recognizable shapes. Here are some more such clusters and asterisms that are in the sky at other times of the year. As a reminder, asterisms are not true clusters; they include stars that appear near each other but are not physically associated.

"The Stargate" is an asterism in Corvus, near M104, the Sombrero Galaxy (which is actually in Virgo). It appears as a small triangle within a larger triangle. It's located at coordinates: RA: 12h 35m 45.0s; Dec: -12° 01' 41"

Cr399 (Vulpecula) - this is the Coathanger, or Brocchi's Cluster, which is not a true cluster at all - just a chance juxtaposition of stars ranging from 220 to 1,100 light years distant. It does sort of look like a coathanger, albeit upside down in the sky. Because of its large size, it's best seen in binoculars just to the northwest of the little arrow-shaped constellation Sagitta.

"Butterfly Cluster" - a true cluster better known as M6, located above the tip of Scorpius' stinger. The fact that it's a Messier cluster tells you it's an easy object in any telescope and it's actually a rich cluster that some are able to spot with the naked eye from a dark site. To me the "body" part looks fatter than a butterfly's - more like a cicada. Whatever, I suppose we could simply call it the "Flying Bug" cluster!

Published in the July 2006 issue of the NightTimes