Constellation - Scutum

Constellation - Scutum


Scutum, the Shield is a small constellation created in 1684 by Johannes Hevelius to commerate the Polish victory in the Battle of Vienna. It's the fifth smallest constellation and can be found between Aquila and Scorpius. Most of its constituent stars are above magnitude 4 meaning it is a faint constellation in light polluted skies. Scutum contains two open clusters and a large number of Messier objects can be found next to the constellation. 

Scutum has a meteor shower, the Scutiids. These start on June 2nd and end on July 29th with the maximum at June 27th with a meteor rate of 2-4 per hour.

Take the Tour:

Number Object Description Magnitude Surface Brightness
1 M11 Open Cluster 5.7 9
2 M26 Open Cluster 8.0 12
3 M16 Diffuse Nebula 6.0 12
4 M17 Diffuse Nebula 6.0 13
M18 Open Cluster 6.9 12
5 M24 Star Cloud 4.0 4.5
6 M23 Open Cluster 5.5 13
7 M25 Open Cluster 4.5 12
8 M21 Open Cluster 5.9 11
M20 Diffuse Nebula 6.2 13
9 M8 Diffuse Nebula 5.0 13

Each image is the size of a full moon for size comparison.

M11, the Wild Duck Cluster:


Messier 11, the Wild Duck Cluster is an open cluster found 6,200 light years away. It was discovered by  Kirch in 1681. This is one of the easier objects to locate and observe. It gets it's name from the triangular appearance of its brightest stars that resemble a flock of flying ducks. The open cluster contains around 2,900 stars and is estimated to be about 220 million years old.



Messier 26 is an open cluster 5,000 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in June 1764. This is a difficult to observe open cluster with the brightest of its estimated 100 members being magnitude 11.9. The rich surrounding star field is what makes it tricky to distinguish. The interesting point is that the centre of the cluster is obscured by a dense instellar cloud.

M16, The Eagle Nebula:


Messier 16 is an open cluster with an emission nebula found 7,000 light years away. It was discovered by Philippe Loys de Cheseaux in 1745 or 1746. The open cluster is easily seen but the nebula will require dark sky conditions. It gets its name from the nebula forming the shape of an eagle. This nebula is famous for the famous Hubble telescope's image titled the 'Pillars of Creation' which is an area of active star formation.

M17, The Swan Nebula:


Messier 17 is an open cluster and emission nebula located about 5,000 light years away. It was discovered by Cheseaux in 1745. It has many other names including the Omega nebula, the horseshoe nebula, the lobster nebula and the checkmark nebula. This is a bright nebula and is easily seen in small telescopes. There are about 35 nearby stars lighting up the nebula. This nebula is about the same size as the Orion nebula but is viewed side-on.



Messier 18 is an open star cluster located 4,900 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in June 1764. You need to use low power for this open cluster as the stars are spread out. This open cluster can be difficult to find as the stars are surrounded by the background stars of the Milky Way.

M24, The Sagittarius Star Cloud:


Messier 24 or the Sagittarius Star Cloud is found around 10,000 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in June 1764. This dense cloud of stars is easily observed with binoculars. Each field of view can reveal upto 1,000 stars. The cloud is part of the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way. It isn't a cloud but a hole in the interstellar space dust revealing the Milky Way beyond. Take your time here as you'll be able to see cluster and nebulae within this large and rich part of the sky.



Messier 23 is an open star cluster found about 2,150 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in June 1764. This is an easy to spot open cluster in binoculars. The cluster contains around 150 stars and is one of the older open clusters estimated to be around 300 million years old.



Messier 25 is an open star cluster located 2,000 light years away. It was discovered by Loys de Cheseaux in 1745. It is an easy open cluster to view. It contains many differing magnitude stars which makes it an attractive cluster to find. Being spread out, a low power eyepiece is required to see it in all its glory. Interestingly, M25 wasn't included in the original NGC list despite being observed by Messier, Herschel and Smythe.



Messier 21 is an open cluster located 4,250 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in June 1764. This small cluster of 57 stars is tightly packed. It is a young cluster being aged at 4.5 millions years and so, contains many young stars.

M20, The Trifid Nebula:


Messier 20, the Trifid nebula is an emission, dark and reflection nebula with an open star cluster located 5,200 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in June 1764. This is a challenge to see but rewarding and a real favourite amongst amateur astronomers. It appears as a faint nebula and you'll need dark skies to see the dark lanes running through it. 

M8, The Lagoon Nebula:


Messier 8, the Lagoon nebula is an emission nebula about 5,000 light years away. It was discovered by Hodierna in 1654. This large nebula is visible to the naked eye in dark sky conditions but can fade and become quite a challenge in a light polluted sky. The bright area of the nebula is called the Hourglass nebula and an open cluster can be seen superimposed on top of the nebula.

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