M50 (NGC 2323) -- Open Cluster in Monoceros
A Fine Cluster at the End of a Long Star-Hop
After the conspicuous winter constellations edge towards the west, a large gap, that lacks bright
stars, follows Orion and Canis Major. From my suburban skies the gap is even more
conspicuous than from a dark location due to the local light pollution. Until Leo enters the scene,
the dark gap provides few guide stars to star-hop to deep sky objects. What the gap lacks in
bright stars, it excels in Open Clusters and other deep sky objects. It just cannot be ignored.
Deep in the Unicorn (Constellation Monoceros) is the Open Cluster M50. It is a long star hop
from Sirius, but well worth the effort. Situated within the starry Milky Way, it is a challenge to
figure out where the cluster ends, and the surrounding star-studded background begins, but the
cluster’s core stands out. Seeing the concentration of over 2,000 stars bunched together in a
14-light-year sized-sphere clearly makes entering the Monoceros gap worth one’s time.