M 46

Photo by Pittendreigh


Alpha and Beta Canis Majoris point the way. Alpha and Beta appear the distance equal to the width of three fingers at arms length. Drawing an imaginary line from Beta, through Alpha and beyond, M47 is six finger widths away from Alpha Canis Majoris (or Sirius). It is not difficult to find, and M46 is just 1.5 degree to the east. M47 can be seen with the unaided eye.


These are fine clusters to savor and enjoy. M46 is not as bright as its neighbor M47, but it has a hidden treasure that will be beyond the reach of those using binoculars. In smaller binoculars, M46 will appear as a hazy nebula. In small telescopes, the individual stars can be resolved. With an 8 inch, and maybe with a 4 inch owned by a young person with good eyes, a planetary nebula can be seen on the northern edge of M46. You will need a dark sky, a well dark adapted eye, and some time using averted vision, but the nebula can be seen.

The planetary nebula is like a smaller version of the Ring Nebula, M57, but is not as regularly shaped. Some may see it as an incomplete ring, like a letter "C." This planetary nebula (NGC 2438) is between us and the cluster and is not a member of M46.

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