NGC 5053
Globular Cluster
RA: 13h16m27.0s Dec: +17°42'00" (Coma Berenices)
Integrated Visual Magnitude: 9.0
Angular Diameter: 10.0'
Distance 55000 ly

Minimum requirements to detect: 4-inch under country skies

Walter Scott Houston wrote of the globular cluster NGC 5053, "In large instruments it is a little gem of woven fairy fire."  This globular was apparently discovered by William Herschel in March of 1784.  A most unusual globular cluster, it's stars are spread much more loosely and irregularly, appearing more like an open cluster than as the familiar tightly wound globular. 

NGC 5053 is a pretty faint globular; it didn't jump out at me like most do.  In my 18-inch at 94x it appeared primarily as a faint, mostly round, smattering of stars embedded in a large very faint glow.   The entire cluster appears diffuse -- there is no bright core of tightly bound stars as seen in most examples of its type.  At 270x NGC 5053 resolved into an irregular smattering of faint stars.  At that magnification it appeared much more like an open cluster than a globular!

Located within a degree of the more famous globular M53, it can be interesting to compare and contrast the two.  Oddly, the smaller and fainter NGC 5053 is actually the closer of the two (although not by much).  In fact, it is one of the intrinsically faintest of the known globular clusters, shining perhaps with the light of a mere 16,000 suns.  It is also one of the most metal-poor known, indicating that it formed from interstellar gas that had not been significantly enhanced with the byproducts of many generations of stars.  Like all Milky Way globular clusters this group of stars formed together long ago (about 13 Billion years).  It isn't really understood why the globulars formed at this time.  Perhaps they formed when our Galaxy merged with another early in its history.  Such mergers have been seen to produce "bursts" of star formation all at once, producing much larger concentrations of stars.

The field in an 6-inch f/8 at 50x.  North is down and east is to the right.
Millennium Star Atlas Vol II Chart 699
Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 14
Uranometria 2000 Vol I Chart 150
Herald-Bobroff Astroatlas B-05 C-21

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