Messier 53 and NGC 5053. A peculiar pair

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Messier 53 (NGC 5024, right side of the image) is a bright globular cluster located  in the constellation Coma Berenices and about 58,000 light years from us. This cluster has about 500,000 stars that show a very low average metallicity (ratio between “heavy” elements -heavier than Helium- and Hydrogen) meaning it is pretty old (about 12.7 billion years old). M53 contains also 67 variable stars (most of which are RR Lyr variables), about 200 blue stragglers and even one identified millisecond pulsar. Anyhow, there is something that makes M53 somewhat peculiar: it interacts with NGC 5053 (on the left side of the image) in a way that M53 has stripped, gravitationally, many stars from NGC 5053 and a tidal star stream between both clusters has been detected and characterized. S-H Chun determined in 2010, from images taken with the CFHT 3.6 m telescope with exposures and filters such as to detect magnitudes 23 and brighter, that some globular clusters have external tidal tails or other structures. M53 was one of them, with the peculiarity that there is an actual tidal bridge between both M53 and NGC 5053. Unfortunately, the above shown image does not show this tidal bridge, because of the fact that the telescope used to take it (0.6 m) would need over 4 hours of exposure for each subframe to grasp 23-mag stars. The faintest stars in this image have a magnitude of 20. But the displayed mosaic shows a double globular cluster, in itself already a rarity.


Additional Information


Name(s): Messier 53, M53, NGC 5024 and NGC 5053

Type: Globular Clusters

RA:  13h 12m 54s (M53)

Dec: +18º 10’ 13” (M53)

Constellation: Coma Berenices

Size (arcmin): 13 arcmin

Magnitude: +8.3

Distance: 58,000 ly


Date: 2022-03-11 to 2022-05-31

Location: Curiosity2 Observatory, New Mexico Skies, Mayhill, NM, USA

Size (arcmin): 75×30 arcmin

Telescope: 24” (61 cm) f/6.5 Reflector

Camera: FLI PL16803 (4096x4096pix)

Guiding: Astrodon MonsterMOAG off-axis guider

Total exposure: 3-pane mosaic 26.5 hours (L: 8.5h; RGB: 18.5h)

Processing: CCDStack, Photoshop CC 2022

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