Looking Up: If It Looks Like A Duck...

Jul 17, 2017

Wabbit season? Nope, duck season! Pretty wild either way!
Credit Credit & Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT), Hawaiian Starlight, CFHT / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up we go hunting with Hal for one of the tightest and brightest of the open clusters in the sky , the Wild Duck Cluster.

It’s Duck Season! If you are a hunter, or watched a certain cartoon growing up, you’ve heard those words before. But I’m not talking about any terrestrial feathered friends, but rather the very remarkable and beautiful Wild Duck Cluster, now soaring in the southern Colorado sky.

Located in the constellation Scutum, and listed by Messier as object number 11, this gorgeous collection of roughly 3000 mostly baby stars is claimed by some to look like a vee-shaped group of flying ducks. But an examination with even a small telescope will reveal the cluster to be one of the tightest and brightest of the open clusters in the sky. Remember that an open cluster is, well, a nursery for new star formation, as vast clouds of gas are drawn in by gravity to form new stars.

With an average age of about 250 million years old, these stars are about 5% as old as our own Sun. About 1/3rd the size of a full Moon, the Wild Duck cluster is actually flying away from our solar system at nearly 50,000 mph! Pretty good for a group of ducks! And admit it, you are glad I didn’t make any fowl puns this episode.  

If you’d like to take a closer look at the Wild Duck Cluster or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties!

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!