M 53 & NGC 5053 -- Globular Clusters in Coma Berenices
Two Globular Clusters Enslaved from Another Galaxy
In order to capture the two globular clusters M53 and NGC 5053 in the same field-of-view
I used a wide-angle eyepiece and low-power. The 41mm eyepiece with my 155mm
Refractor provided a 2.4-degree field-of-view which easily fit both globulars in the same
view. However, to see details within the two clusters, I used a higher-power 13mm eyepiece.
I thus ended up with three separate drawings at the telescope; one wide-field view plus
detailed drawings of each of the two globular clusters. In the above combined drawing, I
reduced the sizes (but not the details) of M 53 and NGC 5053 from the higher-power
drawings and placed them both in the single 2.4-degree drawing. Why did I go through all
this trouble? Because, these two globular clusters truly belong together.
M 53 and NGC 3053 are about 1 degree apart in the sky, but in reality, are separated from
each other by 3,300 light years. What links these two together is their near identical orbital
motions. Their movement is such that it precludes that they originated in the Milky Way
Galaxy. In addition, there is ample evidence that streams of gas and stars share the same
path through space and actually link the two globulars together. For years the main
scientific-thought was that these globulars were originally members of the Sagittarius
Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy that is currently in the process of being ripped apart by our much
larger Milky Way Galaxy.
However, in recent years it has been found that M 53 and NGC 5053, along with their
associated tidal-debris-field of stars and dust, coincides with the orbital plane of the Large
Magellanic Cloud (LMC). It is now thought that the possible origin of M 53 and NGC
5053 might be the LMC. Our galaxy may have stolen these two globulars during an earlier
close encounter with the LMC (See Kanipe & Webb’s Annals of the Deep Sky Vol 6 for
How cool is it that we can see two globulars in a single field-of-view, in the northern
constellation of Coma Berenices, that might have originated in the Large Magellanic
Cloud? Of course, I had to draw them together.