M67 (NGC 2682)


M67 (NGC 2682) is much smaller than The Beehive, with fainter stars, yet there is something to appreciate here. While binoculars will show an unresolved concentration, large telescopes will resolve perhaps fifty or sixty stars (the total number here exceeds five hundred, one hundred of which are similar to our Sun).

The remarkable thing about this cluster is its venerable age, for it is one of the oldest known, estimates range from 3.5 to 5 billion years old with 4 billion becoming the consensus.

After a six-year search, an international team announced in 2013 that the cluster was home to three exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). Two of these orbit stars roughly the size of our Sun while the third orbits a red giant; all three are too close to their star to sustain life. The major result of the discovery was that it was established that planets can exist as much in clusters as they do in isolation.

The cluster is two degrees due west of alpha; with alpha at the left edge of your glasses, M67 should be centred: binoculars.

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1999-2014 by Richard Dibon-Smith.