Messier 18

Messier 18

It looks like Messier 18 might very well be a binary cluster that is paired with NGC 6618. NGC 6618 located inside Messier 17. Messier 18 is a relatively dim open star cluster located in the constellation Sagittarius.

Visible From Pacific NorthwestApril To August
Best Time To ObserveJune, July, or August
Minimum Size Of Viewing DeviceBinoculars
Object TypeOpen Cluster
DesignationsMessier 18, M18, NGC 6613, C 1817-171, MWSC 2892
Right Ascension18h 19.9m
Apparent magnitude 7.5
Apparent dimensions 9′
Object Radius9 light years
Distance From Earth4,900 light years


M18 was one of Charles Messier’s original discoveries, which took place in 1764. He would record the following when cataloging the object.

“In the same night [June 3 to 4, 1764], I have discovered a bit below the nebula reported here above, a cluster of small stars, environed in a thin nebulosity; its extension may be 5 minutes of arc: its appearances are less sensible in an ordinary refractor of 3 feet and a half [FL] than that of the two preceding [M16 and M17]: with a modest refractor, this star cluster appears in the form of a nebula; but when employing a good instrument, as I have done, one sees well many of the small stars: after my observations I have determined its position: its right ascension is 271d 34′ 3″, and its declination 17d 13′ 14″ south.”

Charles Messier when recording his sighting of Messier 18

Locating M18 In The Sky

he easiest way to find M18 with binoculars is to first locate Messier 17 and then aim slightly south, or to find Messier 24 and aim about two degrees north. The cluster is easy to resolve even in small telescopes and best seen  with low magnification.

Messier 18 can also be located using Kaus Borealis, Lambda Sagittarii, the top star of the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius. The cluster lies 8.5 degrees north and slightly west of the star.

Viewing M18

The star cluster is best to observe in small telescopes, which reveal just over a dozen relatively bright stars. Stars in the cluster are not very concentrated, so M18 doesn’t look as impressive in larger instruments. The cluster contains about 20 members. With a diameter of 0.2 degrees, it appears relatively loose and scarcely populated.

Photographing M18

As with any cluster of stars, precise auto guiding will be crucial as making sure the stars are crisp is crucial to any image. There aren’t a plethora of guides available for those looking to specifically imaging M18, as the best one could potentially find would be on astrobin or astropixels. It is definitely possible with a modified DSLR, but will require a telescope with guiding to track M18.

Sources And Further Reading

Descriptions of all of Messier Objects can be found here.

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