Globular Cluster

Messier 53

Position of M53

Messier 53 is a globular cluster located in the constellation Coma Berenices. The exact coordinates of Messier 53 are Right Ascension 13h 12m 55.3s and Declination +18° 10′ 09″ (J2000), which means it is located approximately 2.5 degrees southeast of Diadem, the brightest star in the constellation. Overall, Messier 53 is relatively easy to find as it can appear as a small, hazy patch with the naked eye and is easily visible with a telescope.

Unique facts

  • One of the oldest globular clusters: Messier 53 is estimated to be around 220,000 years old, making it one of the oldest globular clusters known.
  • Unusual abundance of heavy elements: Messier 53 is unique among globular clusters in that it has a relatively high abundance of heavy elements such as iron, indicating that it formed in a different way than most other globular clusters.
  • Unusual shape: Messier 53 has an irregular shape, which is quite unusual for a globular cluster. This may be due to its relatively advanced age and interactions with other nearby objects.
  • Home to a millisecond pulsar: Messier 53 is home to a pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star, that spins hundreds of times per second. This pulsar is classified as a millisecond pulsar and is thought to have been formed as a result of the transfer of material from a companion star.

Some numbers about Messier 53

  • Brightness: The apparent brightness of Messier 53 is 7.7 mag, making it one of the brighter globular clusters. The absolute brightness of Messier 53 is -8.9 mag.
  • Size: The diameter of Messier 53 is about 220 light-years.
  • Apparent size: The apparent diameter of Messier 53 in the sky is about 13 arcminutes, which is about a third of the apparent diameter of the full moon.
  • Distance: The distance of Messier 53 is approximately 58,000 light-years away from Earth.

Names and catalogs

  • Messier 53 (M53): The object was first catalogued by the French astronomer Charles Messier in 1777.
  • NGC 5024: Messier 53 is also known as NGC 5024 in the New General Catalogue, which is another collection of astronomical objects.
  • GCl 23: In a catalog of globular clusters compiled by astronomers Brent Archinal and Steven Hynes, Messier 53 is designated as GCl 23.
  • C 1310+182: Messier 53 is also known by this entry in Caroline Herschel’s catalog of globular clusters.