M46 and Planetaries PLN 231 + 4.1 and 4.2

Camera: Starlight Xpress SXVF-H16 with FLI CFW-2-7 Filter Wheel

Mount: Losmandy G-11/Gemini

Scope: Takahashi Epsilon E-160

Colors: L:R:G:B

Exposure Time: 60:20:20:20 Minutes

Post-Production: MaxIm DL, PixInsight, and Photoshop CS3

Open clusters (aka galactic clusters) are congregations of stars that are relatively young, born near the galactic plane of the Milky Way galaxy. These clusters of stars typically dwindle in numbers as they are pulled apart by gravitational forces. This cluster of a few hundred stars is commonly known as M46. It is about 300 million years young, and spans about 30 light years across. It is located roughly 5000 light years away toward the constellation Puppis. In an apparent contradiction in age, planetary nebula PLN231+4.2 (aka NGC 2348) appears within the cluster, but it is actually a forground object located approximately 3000 light years away. Planetary nebulae are the brief final life phase of solar-type stars, of perhaps a few billion years in age, whose central reservoir of hydrogen has been exhausted. NGC 2348 is traveling through space at a different speed than the stars of M46. Another planetary, designated PLN231+4.1, is visible as a small red dot in the upper left portion of the screen.

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