Globular Cluster
aka NGC 5904
RA: 15h18m34.0s, Dec: +0205'00" (2000) in Serpens Caput
Magnitude: 5.70
Size: 23.0'

Distance: 29000 ly

Minimum requirements to detect: any telescope under urban skies


Burnham calls M5 "one of the great show objects of the summer sky, ranking with M13 in Hercules and M3 in Canes Venatici and one of the three finest globulars in the north half of the sky."  The approximately 250,000 stars of M5 lie nearly 30,000 light years distant.

M5 can be glimpsed in binoculars as a small round hazy patch.  A 6-inch scope will reveal many hundreds of individual stars.  Larger instruments will resolve this cluster to the core, showing a myriad of glittering points of light.  Walter Scott Houston claimed that M5 was visible to the naked eye from a dark site.

The view in an 6-inch at 50x. That's 5 Ser to the upper right.

It can make an interesting project to compare M5 to M13 in Hercules, which is also visible at this time of year.  Among other things I've noted, M5 has a much smaller core, yet the fainter outlying stars seem to reach as far out as those in M13.

It can be argued that perhaps with the exception of Saturn there is no view in the sky more stunning than a globular cluster, and this is one of the finest.  Unlike most other objects in the sky, no photograph can capture the beauty you will see in the eyepiece!   If you want to share the beauty of the night sky with a non-astronomer, a globular star cluster such as M5 will always delight and never disappoint.

This image is from the DSS and shows a 20' x 20' field. No photograph can do it justice!
Millennium Star Atlas Vol II Chart 765
Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 14
Uranometria 2000 Vol I&II Chart 244
Uranometria 2nd Ed. Chart 108
Herald-Bobroff Astroatlas B-07 C-46

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