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Observations and Descriptions
Discovered on May 5, 1702 by Gottfried and Maria Margarethe Kirch.
Independently rediscovered by Charles Messier on May 23, 1764.
Observing Reports for M5 (IAAC Netastrocatalog)
- May 23, 1764. 5.
15h 06m 36s (226d 39' 04") +2d 57' 16"
Beautiful Nebula discovered between the Balance [Libra] & the Serpent
[Serpens], near the star in the Serpent, of 6th magnitude, which is the 5th
according to the Catalog of Flamsteed [5 Ser]: it doesn't contain
any star; it is round, & one sees it very well, in a fine [clear dark]
sky, with an ordinary refractor of 1-foot [FL]. M. Messier has reported it
in the chart of the comet of 1763.
Mem. Acad for the year 1774, page 40. Reviewed on Sep. 5, 1780,
January 30 & March 22, 1781.
[Mem. Acad. for 1771, p. 437 (first Messier catalog)]
The night of May 23 to 24, 1764, I have discovered a beautiful nebula in the
constellation of Serpens, near the star of sixth magnitude; the fifth
according to the catalog of Flamsteed. That nebula doesn't contain any star;
it is round, & could have a diameter of 3 arc minutes; one can see it
very well, under a good sky, with an ordinary [non-achromatic] refractor of
one foot [FL]. I have observed that nebula in the Meridian, & I have
compared it to the star Alpha Serpentis. Its position was right ascansion
226d 39' 4", & its declination 2d 57' 16" north. On March 11, 1769, at
about four o'clock in the morning, I have reviewed that nebula with a good
Gregorian telescope of 30 pouces, which magnified 104 times, & I have
ensured that it doesn't contain any star.
1764.May.23. RA: 226.39. 4, Dec: 2.57.16.B, Diam: 0. 3.
Beautiful nebula without stars, between the Serpent ∓ the Ballance near
the star of 6th magnitude, the fifth of the Serpent, according to Flamsteed.
- [From the diary of Margarethe Kirch, here translated from the quotation in
Leos Ondra's article]
May 5 :
"By such searching [for the comet then visile] my husband found by this
with just this 3 Sch. tube, high over Mu [Serpentis] a nebulous light,
it had many other fine stars around it, but one stood particularly by the
tube above it about thus: [sketch follows]
"We have found the nebulous starlet clearly at its previous place."
[Apparently found by Copeland and published by
- A nebula without stars.
Koehler No. 13
[Nebula] At Mount Maenalus, separated from s (after Doppelmayer)
by 19' 11".
- Caroline Herschel
May 22, 1783. Observed M5 (which she first took for a comet),
M10, M11, and
- William Herschel
[PT 1800 p. 73 & 75-76,reprinted in
Scientific Papers, Vol. 2, p. 44 & 46]
March 4, 1783. With the 7-feet reflector, I viewed the nebula near the 5th
Serpentis, discovered by Mr. Messier, in 1764 [M 5 = NGC 5904].
"It has several stars in it; they are however too small that I can but just
perceive some, and suspect others."
May 31, 1783. The same nebula with a 10-feet reflactor; penetrating power
1/2 * sqrt(43*(89^ 2-16^ 2)) = 28.67.
"With a magnifying power of 250, it is all resolved into stars: they are very
close, and the appearance is beautiful. With 600, perfectly resolved. There
is a considerable star not far from the middle; another not far from one
side, but out of the cluster; another pretty bright one; a great number of
Here we have a case where the penetrating power of 20 fell short, when 29
resolved the nebula completely. This object requires also great magnifying
power to shew the stars of it well; but that power had before been tried, in
the 7-feet, as far as 460, without success, and could only give an indication
of its being composed of stars; whereas the lower magnifying power of 250,
with a greater penetrating power, in the 10-feet instrument, resolved the
whole nebula into stars.
Feb. 24, 1786. I viewed the nebula near Flamsteed's 5 Serpentis, which has
been mentioned before [M 5] with my 20-feet reflector; magnifying power 157.
"The most beautiful extremely compressed cluster of small stars; the greatest
part of them gathered together into a brilliant nucleus, evidently consisting
of stars, surrounded with many detached gathering stars of the same size and
colour. R.A. 15h 7' 12"; P.D. 87d 8'."
May 27, 1791. I viewed the same object with my 40-feet telescope; penetrating
power sqrt(64*480|^2)/2 = 191.69; magnifying power 370.
"A beautiful cluster of stars. I counted about 200 of them. The middle of it
is so compressed that it is impossible to distinguish the stars."
[PT 1814, p. 275, reprinted in Scinetific Papers, Vol. 2, p. 535]
May 27, 1791. 40 feet telescope, power 370. "The 5th of the Connoiss.
[M 5 = NGC 5904] is a beautiful cluster of stars; I counted 200 of them; but
the middle of it is so compressed that it is impossible to distinguish the
(*) A 40 feet telescope should only be used for examining objects that other
instruments will not reach. To look through one larger than required is loss
of time, which, in a fine night, an astronomer has not to spare; but it ought
to be known that the opportunities of using the 40 feet reflector are
rendered very scarce by two material circumstances. The first is the
changable temperature of the atmosphere, by which the mirror is often covered
with condensation of vapour upon its surface, which renders it useless for
many hours; and in cold weather by freezing upon it for the whole night, and
even for weeks together; for the ice cannot be safely taken off till a
general thaw removes it. The next is that, with all imaginable care, the
polish of a mirror exposed like that of the 40 feet telescope, though well
covered up, will only preserve its required lustre and delicacy about two
years. The three observations I have given must consequently be looked upon
as having been made by three different mirrors; but if we will have superior
views of the heavens, we must submit to circumstances that cannot easily be
[PT 1818, p. 437, reprinted in Scientific Papers, Vol. 2, p. 596]
The 5th of the Connoissance. [M 5 = NGC 5904]
"1813, 7 feet finder. It is near a star of equal brightness; the star is
clear but the object is hazy."
"1783, 7 feet telescope. It consists of stars; they are however so small that
I can but just perceive some, and suspect others.
1810, the globular figure is visible."
"1783, 10 feet telescope. With 600, all resolved into stars."
"1785, 1786, 20 feet telescope. A very compressed cluster of stars, 7 or 8
minutes in diameter; the greatest compression about 2 or 2 1/2 minutes."
"1792, 40 feet telescope. With 370 I counted about 200 stars; the middle is
so compressed, that it is impossible to distinguish the stars."
The profundity of this cluster, by the observation of the 7 feet telescope,
is of the 243d order.
- John Herschel (1833):
- h 1916 = M 5.
Sweep 144 (April 13, 1828).
RA 15h 9m 56.4s, NPD 87d 16m 27s (1830.0)
[Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
A most magnificient, excessively compressed cluster of a globular character.
Stars 11 ... 15m; diam[eter] in RA = 10 sec of time; the more condenced part
projected on a loose irregular ground of stars. The condensation is
progressive up to the centre, where the stars run into a blaze, or like a
snowball; the scattered stars occupy nearly the whole field. The neighborhood
is poor in stars. (See fig. 87).
DXXXVIII . M5.
- DXXXVIII. 5 M. Librae [now Serpentis].
AR 15h 10m 26s, Dec N 2d 41'.3
Mean Epoch of Observation: 1838.38 [May 1838]
A close cluster of stars, over the beam of the Balance, in a narrow channel
led into Serpens, and close to No. 5 of that asterism [5 Serpentis], which is
double, and the next described [Smyth's No. DXXXIX, 539]. This superb object
is a noble mass, refreshing to the senses after searching for faint objects;
with outliers in all directions, and a bright central blaze, which even
exceeds 3 M. in concentration. Messier, who
registered this in 1764, describes it as a beautiful round nebula, adding,
"et je me suis assuré qu'elle ne contient aucune étoile
[and I'm sure that it doesn't contain any star]." This is curious, as the
mass is so easily resolvable; though its laws of aggregation into so dense
and compact a ball, are at present beyond reach. In May, 1791, Sir William
Herschel directed his grand 40-foot reflector to this object, and counted
about 200 stars; though the middle of it was so compressed, that it was
impossible to distinguish the components.
In his description of this object, Sir William remarks on the difficulty of
observing with so large an instrument, as well from variable temperature as
from alternation in the mirror's lustre; "but," he adds, "if we will have
superior views of the heavens, we must submit to circumstances that cannot
easily be altered."
- John Herschel, General Catalogue:
- GC 4083 = h 1916 = M 5.
RA 15h 11m 27.2s, NPD 87d 23m 8.7s (1860.0)
[Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
!!; Glob. Cl.; vB; L; eCM; st 11...15
Very remarkable; globular cluster; very bright; large; extremely compressed
in the middle; stars from 11th to 15th magnitude.
Remark: Figure in PT 33 [JH 1833], plate viii, fig. 87.
- Dreyer (1877)
GC 4083. M. 5. Discovered by Gottfried Kirch on the 5th May, 1702. The
following is an extract from Marie Margarethe Kirch's diary, now in the
possession of Lord Lindsay: - "Durch solches Suchen [for the comet then
visible] fand mein Mann durch eben diesen 3 Sch. Tub. hoch über Mu
[Serpentis, mentioned in the foregoing] ein neblicht, aber doch deutliches
Sternchen, es hatte viel andere feine Sternchen um sich, doch eine stand
sonderlich per Tubum über diesen ungefähr also [then follows a
rough sketch of a star and the "nebulous star" below it] . . . .
May 6. Das neblichte Sternchen haben wir deutlich auf seiner vorherigen
At 10:30, P.M., on the date mentioned, 5 M would be about 8deg above Mu
Serpentis, and the sketch made by M.M. Kirch represents exactly the relative
position of 5 M and the * [star] 5 Serpentis, as seen in an inverting
telescope (per tubum). Communicated by Dr. R. Copeland.
- NGC 5904 = GC 4083 = h 1916; M 5.
RA 15h 11m 28s, NPD 87d 24.3m (1860.0)
[Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
!!, Glob. Cl., vB, L, eCM, st 11...15; = M5
Very remarkable, globular cluster, very bright, large, extremely compressed
in the middle, stars from 11th to 15th magnitude.
5904. h 1916 = M 5. According to Margaretha Kirch's diary (now belonging to
Lord Crawford), this was discovered by her husband, Gotfried [sic] Kirch, on
May 5, 1702.
PT 33 [JH 1833], plate XVI, fig. 87.
- [Descriptions of 762 Nebulae ans Clusters photographed with the Crossley
Reflector. Publ. Lick Obs., No. 13, Part I, p. 9-42]
NGC 5904, RA=15:13.5, Dec=+ 2:27.
[Publ. Lick Obs.] Vol. VIII, Plate 52. M. 5. A beautiful, bright globular
cluster; the main portion is about 12' in diameter. 4 s.n.
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Last Modification: February 20, 2005