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M 55
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M 55

February 18, 2005
Globular Cluster M55 (NGC 6809), class XI, in Sagittarius

Right Ascension: 19 : 40.0 (h:m)
Declination: -30 : 58 (deg:m)
Distance: 17.3 (kly)
Visual Brightness: 6.3 (mag)
Apparent Dimension: 19.0 (arc min)

Discovered 1751-52 by Abbe Nicholas Louis de la Caille.

M55 is a quite large globular cluster (about 19', roughly 2/3 of the Moon's apparent diameter) but has such a loose appearence, that the present author had a star cluster impression even in 7x50 binoculars, where most globulars look like round nebulae: This one appeared very grainy. As it is about 17,300 light years distant, this diameter corresponds to a linear of about 100 light years. M55 has only very few known variables, 5 or 6. The published values for M55's magnitude vary from mag 5 to 7. Its total luminosity may be near 100,000 times that of the Sun.

M55 was originally discovered by Lacaille in 1751-1752 (his Lac I.14), when he was observing in South Africa. Charles Messier finally found it and cataloged it on July 24, 1778, after having looked in vain as early as 1764: This is a consequence of this object's southern declination. The present author can confirm that M55 is most difficult from Southern Germany also, but splendid if you go a bit more southward (it was very impressive e.g. from Northern Greece).