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Astr110 Photography Projects, Spring 2010

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Maia Nebula , Jonathan Smart

Maia Nebula

The photograph above is of the Maia Nebula or Pleiades. It is known to Messier as M45, and has also been given the nickname "Seven Sisters." Only a small part of the object is pictured above as the entire object consists of seven large stars and a much larger nebula. This object is categorized as an open cluster: a group of stars formed from the same giant molecular cloud that are still loosely bound to each other. Pleiades is 440 light years away from Earth, making it one of the nearest star clusters to Earth and the most obvious one to the naked eye. This allowed it to be mentioned in pre-historical writings: by Homer in about 750 B.C., by biblical Amos in about 750 B.C., and by Hesiod about 700 B.C., though the earliest known depiction of the Pleiades is a bronze age artifact known as the "Nebra sky disk", dated to approximately 1600 B.C. Pleiades can be found in the constellation Taurus.

Pleiades is a middle-aged open cluster with estimates of its age ranging from 75 to 150 million years. The cluster is surrounded by hot blue, and very luminous, stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. The nebula was first thought to be left over from the formation of the cluster (hence the alternate name Maia Nebula after the star Maia), but it has since been discovered to be an unrelated dust cloud that the stars are currently passing through. Even though the nebula is unrelated, it makes up a good portion of Pleiades identity, giving it its bluish tint. The visible nebula above is measured to have an angular size of 8.7 arcminutes, though the cluster as a whole has an angular size of 110 arcminutes. This results in a linear size of 1.12 arcminutes for the visible nebula and 14.07 arcminutes for the entire cluster.


Frommert, Hartmut and Kronberg, Christine. "M45."

Right Ascension (J2000) 03:45:24
Declination (J2000) +24:11:12
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 20x15 seconds
Date observed

March 12, 2010 @ 21:31:50