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Object description
Messier 80 - a globular cluster and the minor planet Ceres in the constellation Scorpion

Object description:

Messier 80and Ceres

Our image of Messier 80 is actually a byproduct. In the night the image was taken there were three minor planets - Ceres, Dione and Katyusha - in the field of view which were the actual target of the image. In the upper right corner of the image there are two small and faint galaxies, IC 4596 and IC 4600.

Messier 80 (NGC 6093) is a small bright globular cluster in the constellation Scorpio. It is about 33,000 light-years from Earth and contains over 100,000 stars in a volume of space about 90 light-years across. The age of the stars is estimated to be 13 billion years. M 80 is cataloged as Class II according to Shapley, making it one of the densest globular clusters in the Milky Way.

M 80 contains a surprisingly large number of hot blue stars ("blue stragglers"), normally found only in regions where star formation has occurred until recently. Until recently, the nature of the "blue stragglers" was a mystery, but they are now believed to be formed by the collision of two smaller stars. In normal regions of the galaxy, where the distances between stars are millions of times greater, such collisions are considered essentially impossible. In globular clusters, however, where the stars are clustered thousands or tens of thousands of times more densely, such collisions can certainly occur. M80 hosts more than twice as many "blue stragglers" than any other globular cluster in the Milky Way. M80 was discovered by Charles Messier on January 4, 1781.


In addition to the globular cluster, an object from our solar system is also in the image. The labeled version of our image marks the position of the dwarf planet Ceres, which orbits the Sun in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres, with a diameter of just under 1000 kilometers, is the largest object in the asteroid belt and the smallest of the dwarf planets. The distance to Ceres at the time the image was taken was only 22 light minutes, or 397 million kilometers.

Ceres was discovered on January 1, 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi at the Palermo Observatory.

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