M67 Open Star Cluster

M67 star cluster

M67 Star Cluster

M67 is a dense galactic star cluster rated at magnitude 6.9. M67 is unusual in that it is located nearly 1500 light-years above the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. Most open clusters are distributed along the central plane of the galaxy. This group of stars is relatively compact and contains approximately 500 members between 10th magnitude and 16th magnitude. The cluster is about 12 light-years in diameter. M67 is some 2700 light-years distant from us. It is overshadowed by the more famous Beehive Cluster nearby, but it is 4 and 1/2 times farther away as compared with the Beehive (M44) which is only 580 light-years away. M67 is a good object to view with binoculars.

The evolution of the stars in the M67 cluster implies an age of about 4 billion years, which is in agreement with a new dating method based on the cooling rates of white dwarf stars. This makes M67 one of the more ancient open clusters known to us. Most galactic star clusters this age would have dispersed by now, but M67 has somehow cheated death for billions of years. Unlike globular clusters where the stars are typically metal poor in composition, the members of M67 have a chemical composition comparable to that of our Sun. M67 is the oldest open cluster in the Messier catalog.

This image of M67 was taken from my backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is an RGB color composite CCD image taken with an ST-8E and CFW-8 mounted at prime focus on an FS-78 refractor. The scope was carried on an NJP Temma mount.

M67 (NGC 2682)
Constellation: Cancer
RA: 08h 51m 24s Dec: +11d 49' 00" (J2000)
January 19, 2004
Image by Sid Leach
Scottsdale, Arizona

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