Messier 54 (also known as M54 or NGC 6715) is a w:globular cluster in the w:constellation Sagittarius. It was discovered by w:Charles Messier in w:1778 and subsequently included in his catalog of w:comet-like objects.

Messier 54
M54 by w:Hubble Space Telescope; 3.5′ view
Credit: w:NASA/w:STScI/w:WikiSky
Observation data (w:J2000 epoch)
Right ascension18h 55m 03.28s[1]
Declination-30° 28′ 42.6″[1]
Distance87.4 kly[2] (26.8 kpc)
Apparent magnitude (V)8.37[1]
Apparent dimensions (V)12′.0
Physical characteristics
Masskg ( M)
Radius153 ly[3]
Estimated age13 Gyr[4]
Notable featuresProbably extragalactic
Other designationsM54,[1] NGC 6715,[1] GCl 104[1]

Previously thought to be at a distance from w:Earth of about 50,000 w:light-years, it was discovered in w:1994 that M54 was most likely not part of the w:Milky Way, but actually part of the w:Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, (SagDEG),[5] making it the first extragalactic globular cluster ever discovered, even if it wasn't recognized as such for nearly two and a quarter centuries.

Modern estimates now place M54 at a distance of some 87,000 light-years, translating into a true radius of 150 light-years across. It is one of the denser of the globulars, being of class III (I being densest and XII being the least dense). It shines with the w:luminosity of roughly 850,000 times that of the w:Sun and has an w:absolute magnitude of -10.0.

M54 is easily found on the sky, being close to the w:star ζ Sagittarii. It is however, not resolvable into individual stars even with larger amateur w:telescopes.

In July of 2009, a team of astronomers reported that they had found evidence of an w:intermediate-mass black hole in the core of M54.[6] This was the first report of such a black hole in any globular cluster.

External links


  1. a b c d e f "SIMBAD Astronomical Database". Results for NGC 6715. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
  2. Gavin Ramsay and Kinwah Wu, Chandra observations of the globular cluster M54
  3. distance × sin( diameter_angle / 2 ) = 153 ly. radius
  4. Geisler, Doug; Wallerstein, George; Smith, Verne V.; Casetti-Dinescu, Dana I. (September 2007), "Chemical Abundances and Kinematics in Globular Clusters and Local Group Dwarf Galaxies and Their Implications for Formation Theories of the Galactic Halo", The Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 119 (859): 939-961, doi:10.1086/521990{{citation}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. Siegel, Michael H.; Dotter, Aaron; Majewski, Steven R.; Sarajedini, Ata; Chaboyer, Brian; Nidever, David L.; Anderson, Jay; Marín-Franch, Antonio; Rosenberg, Alfred; Bedin, Luigi R.; Aparicio, Antonio; King, Ivan; Piotto, Giampaolo; Reid, I. Neill (September 2007), "The ACS Survey of Galactic Globular Clusters: M54 and Young Populations in the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy", The Astrophysical Journal, 667 (1): L57-L60, doi:10.1086/522003{{citation}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  6. Ibata, R.; Bellazzini, M.; Chapman, S. C.; Dalessandro, E.; Ferraro, F.; Irwin, M.; Lanzoni, B.; Lewis, G. F.; Mackey, A. D.; Miocchi, P.; Varghese, A. (July 2009), "Density and Kinematic Cusps in M54 at the Heart of the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy: Evidence for A   Black Hole?", The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 699 (2): L169-L173, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/699/2/L169{{citation}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)