The stars, clusters and other objects comprising M24 are part of the Sagittarius or Sagittarius-Carina arms of the Galaxy. Messier described M24 as a "large nebulosity containing many stars" and gave its dimensions as being some 1.5° across, a description that fits the star cloud rather well. Some sources, improperly, identify M24 as the faint cluster NGC 6603.
M24 fills a space of significant volume to a depth of 10,000 to 16,000 light-years. This is the most dense concentration of individual stars visible using binoculars, with around 1,000 stars visible within a single field of view.