M18 is a small open cluster located among the rich Milky Way star fields of Sagittarius. With an apparent mag. of +7.5, it's easily visible with popular 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars appearing as a somewhat dim hazy patch of light. The cluster was one of Charles Messier's original discoveries, which he catalogued on June 3, 1764.

M18 can be found not far from the teapot asterism of Sagittarius. It's positioned 8.5 degrees north and a little west of Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr - mag. +2.8), the teapot's top star. The surrounding region of sky is a wonderfully rich area for astronomers that's filled to the brim with numerous open clusters, globular clusters and nebulae. Two prominent examples are the Omega Nebula (M17) and the sprawling Sagittarius Star Cloud (M24). They are positioned one degree north and two degrees south of M18 respectively, with all three objects visible in the same binocular field of view.

M18 Open Cluster (credit:- Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS))

Finder Chart for M18 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M18 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M8 (also shown M6, M7, M18, M20->M24, M28, M54, M55, M69 and M70)

Finder Chart for M8 (also shown M6, M7, M18, M20->M24, M28, M54, M55, M69 and M70) - pdf format

M18 is best seen with binoculars and small scopes. A small 80mm (3.1-inch) refractor easily shows the brightest dozen white / blue-white stars, with additional fainter members visible with averted vision. They appear loosely arranged in an area that spans 9 arc minutes in diameter. In total, M18 contains 20 stars. However, in larger scopes it's not as impressive due to its lack of concentration.

M18 is best seen from southern and equatorial regions during the months of June, July and August. The cluster is located 4,900 light-years from Earth, which corresponds to an actual diameter of 13 light-years. With an estimated age of 32 million years, it's a youthful star grouping.

M18 Data Table

Object TypeOpen cluster
Distance (light-years)4,900
Apparent Mag.+7.5
RA (J2000)18h 19m 58s
DEC (J2000)-17d 06m 07s
Apparent Size (arc mins)9.0 x 9.0
Radius (light-years)6.5
Age (years)32 Million
Number of Stars20
Other NameCollinder 376

Sky Highlights - March 2017

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak now visible with binoculars as it heads towards perihelion

Mercury heading towards greatest elongation east

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for March 2017

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (mag. -4.8 to -4.1 - first half of month), Mars (mag. +1.3 to +1.5), Uranus (mag. +5.9), Mercury (mag. -1.5 to -0.4 - second half of month)
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
West:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +8.0 - second half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Messier 67 - M67 - Open Cluster
Messier 51 - M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 97 - M97 - The Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
Messier 101 - M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 65 – M65 – Spiral Galaxy
Messier 66 - M66 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
Messier 95 - M95 - Barred Spiral Galaxy
Messier 96 - M96 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4244 - Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4565 - Needle Galaxy - Spiral Galaxy

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