Sagittarius is home to many deep sky objects but few are as fascinating as Messier 54. Discovered by Charles Messier in 1778, the cluster was originally thought to orbit our own Milky Way galaxy at a distance of some 50,000 light years.
However, more recent studies have indicated the cluster is much further away – perhaps as much as 87,000 light years – and may actually belong to the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy instead. Lastly, despite shining with the light of 850,000 Suns, the cluster may be hiding a heart of darkness in the form of a black hole.
If you want to try your luck at finding this mysterious object, you’ll first need to find Ascella, on the bottom of the teapot-shaped asterism of stars. If you’re using binoculars or a finderscope that magnifies, M54 should appear as a faint, spherical misty patch within the same field of view.
(Click on an image to enlarge.)
The globular cluster M54 culminates at midnight tonight. (Magnitude 8.4. Sagittarius, all night.)
Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.
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