Find and observe globular clusters
They’re among the most fascinating and beautiful objects you can study with a telescope – they’re also the most challenging. Here’s how to get the perfect view…
Globular star clusters contain some of the oldest stars in the known universe. As the name suggests, they are massive balls of stars which can look like a sphere of diamonds through a telescope. Some of them are quite easy to find, although others can be trickier to locate.
Nearly all of the globular clusters we can see with amateur telescopes orbit around our galaxy, the Milky Way, and the ones most easily visible are nearer to our Solar System. How well you can see them depends on how far away they are, the structure of the globular cluster itself and the size of your telescope. Some clusters appear to fill an area of sky, which will make them obvious even in a small telescope at low magnification, whereas others will require a higher power eyepiece and a larger telescope to be seen well.
Globular star clusters can be found almost all year round, but in the northern hemisphere spring is a good time of year, as the Earth's position in its orbit means that we are looking away from the plane of our galaxy and out into deep space, where many such clusters can be seen more easily in slightly less cluttered areas of the night sky.
Although all globular clusters are generally spherical in shape, they all have a slightly different structure. Many are quite compact and appear as tight balls of stars, whereas others have a much looser composition where outer stars in the group are easier to resolve and can have the appearance of being stragglers in the system. Most of these clusters contain upwards of a hundred thousand stars!
It has been found that nearly all of these clusters formed very early on in the evolution of our universe, making them very old. In fact, it is thought that some of these clusters must have formed very soon after the Big Bang itself.
It is well worth taking the time to track down these amazing objects, no matter what size of telescope you have. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views of ancient star systems, which will keep you coming back for more.
“You will be rewarded with breathtaking views of ancient star systems”