Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster we can see from Earth. This view is similar to how it appears through a pair of binoculars although the individual stars, due to their tightly packed configuration, are not resolved visually. You can see it with the naked eye in a dark site and it is close to the size of the full Moon! Containing as many as 10 million stars packed at the core to within only 0.1 light year apart, it lies about 16,000 light years away in the constellation Centaurus. Interestingly it is really a southern hemisphere target. I had no idea it was visible from my observatory location in Mayhill, NM until one morning in February at around 5 am I was out on my deck with a pair of binoculars and while panning the skies near the southern horizon a huge ball of stars popped into view! It was the largest collection of stars I had ever seen! I knew right away that’s what it had to be. I checked the sky charts for that time and confirmed yes it was there! Apparently it skirts the horizon at this location in late winter, early spring and reaches a maximum altitude of a whopping 8 degrees above the horizon! It is only visible for just under 2 hours. By comparison the largest globular cluster typically visible for most northern hemisphere observers in the late Spring and Summer directly overhead is the so-called Great Hercules Cluster in the constellation Hercules and has “only” a few hundred thousand stars!
The image above is the fully processed version which is only about 1.5 hours of data. The full resolution version and further details can be seen by going to the “My astroimages” link to the lower right.
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