Image credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Piotto (Universita degli Studi di Padova); Image Processing: Gladys Kober

Key Takeaways

  1. Messier 80 is a dazzling globular star cluster included in the influential Messier Catalog of Deep Space Objects.
  2. Residing about 32,600 light years away in the Scorpius constellation, the cluster boasts a dense concentration of stars.
  3. Observations of Messier 80 shed light on novae, supernovae, and intriguing interactions between stars.
  4. Charles Messier, Sir William Herschel, and Admiral Smyth played vital roles in recording the cluster’s historical significance.
  5. Easily spotted between Antares and Graffias, Messier 80 remains a captivating sight for both urban and moonlit skies.

Discovering the “nebulous objects” during his night sky survey in the 18th century, renowned astronomer Charles Messier compiled a list to prevent others from confusing these objects with comets. This catalog, known as the Messier Catalog, is now an influential collection of over 100 Deep Space Objects. Among these celestial treasures is Messier 80, a dense globular star cluster residing approximately 32,600 light years away from Earth in the Scorpius constellation. Its location, nestled between Antares, Alpha Scorpii, Akrab, and Beta Scorpii, facilitates easy spotting.

Messier 80 dazzles observers with its concentrated brilliance, hosting hundreds of thousands of stars packed tightly within a sphere measuring about 95 light years in diameter. Despite its distance, it shines with an impressive magnitude of 8. Its study reveals insights into novae and supernovae, interactions between stars, and the formation of exotic celestial objects. Over time, esteemed astronomers like Sir William Herschel and Admiral Smyth have contributed to documenting its intriguing characteristics and significance in the vast cosmos.

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The globular cluster Messier 80. Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team/STScI/ AURA


The globular cluster Messier 80, seen between the bright stars of Antares, Al Niyat, Akrad and Jabbah in the constellation Scorpius. Credit: Wikisky


This is a 5-minute exposure taken with an SBIG ST-9E CCD camera through Kopernik’s 20 inch F/8.1 telescope. The field of view is about 8×8 arc minutes, with North at the top.


M80, a globular cluster in the constellation Scorpius, is quite distant at over 27000 light-years, and also one of the densest globulars. It contains several hundred thousand stars within a diameter of around seventy light-years. This picture was created from observations with the T2KA CCD camera at the Kitt Peak National Observatory’s 0.9-meter telescope in March of 1995.Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA


Credit: Jakub Korbel


R/B-band color composite image from the Second Digitized Sky Survey (DSS2), measuring 10 arcminutes across.

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