In the constellation Scutum or Shield, 5,500 light years away from Earth, is the open star cluster NGC 6705 or M11. It is also known as the Wild Duck cluster, because its triangular shape resembles a flock of ducks. It is halfway between the constellations of El Águila and Sagitario, and is approximately 220 million years old.
M11 was discovered in 1681 by the German astronomer Gottfried Kirch, and in 1764 Charles Messier incorporated it into his catalog of astronomical objects. It has about 2,900 stars similar to our Sun, but some of them are very variable. White and blue stars predominate, although some red and yellow ones can also be seen.
The cluster M11 moves away from our Solar System at a speed close to 22 kilometers per second. Inside, 82 variable stars have been discovered so far, and in the surrounding area there are many binary stars and several pulsars, which could be part of the cluster.
In the next hundreds of millions of years, the stars that are part of the Wild Duck cluster will disperse. The bluest ones will run out of energy and become giants, dying in the form of planetary nebulae or white dwarfs. The rest of the stars, which have a much smaller mass, will end up dispersing throughout the galaxy.
The open star cluster M11 is one of the favorites of astronomy fans, since this spectacular triangular concentration of tiny stars offers a whole world of possibilities just by looking at it with a simple telescope of few magnifications.
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