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Wildrik Botjes Planetarium
Physics & Astronomy Department

Astr110 Photography Projects, Fall 2007

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M103 Star Cluster (NGC 581), Marcus Drenth


The object in the picture above is M 103 or Messier 103 referring to Charles Messier. M 103 is an open star cluster located in the Cassiopeia constellation. Pierre Méchain first discovered M 103 in March or April of 1781. It was one of the last objects to be put in the Messier catalog.

The picture I have above is a cropped version of M 103. If you take a step back you can see that the cluster is much more spread out than what I have captured above. I chose to focus on this part of the M 103 because I believe it is the most interesting part. As you can see there are three main stars that form a diagonal line in the center. Out of the three stars the most distinct seems to be the red star in the middle. This star is a giant star and has the reddish color because it was once the hottest and brightest burning star in the cluster, but burned out making it the coldest star in the cluster. Because it was the brightest and hottest star at one point it burned all of its hydrogen the fast causing the star to cool down giving it the red color.

The brightest star (B5 Ib supergiant) is the biggest star in the picture and located at the top of the diagonal line I referred to earlier. Because it is a supergiant it burns very bright and has the highest temperature in this specific cluster. The second brightest star (B2 III giant) is located at the bottom of the diagonal line of stars. It is a giant star which means it still burns bright and hot, but just less than the supergiant in this cluster. This cluster is about 25 million years old and has a has a linear size of 16.63 light years.  

Fix, John D. Astronomy Journey to the Cosmic Frontier . 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006..

"M 103." SEDs. 9 Dec. 1999. 6 Nov. 2007 <http://www.maa.agleia.de/Messier/E/m103.html>.


Right Ascension (J2000) 1:33:12
Declination (J2000) +60:42:00
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 300 seconds in BVRC
Date observed

October 23 , 2007 (BVRC)