M3 (NGC 5272)


M3 (NGC 5272) is considered one of the finest globular cluster of the northern hemisphere with an apparent magnitude of 6.2, just below naked-eye visibility.

A half a million stars make up the cluster, although -- being 35,000 light years away -- it only appears as a rather fuzzy region in binoculars; it takes a large telescope to enjoy the majesty of this bright cluster. It's thought to be about 8 billion years old.

Finding the cluster could be an adventure; it's near the extreme southeast corner of Canes Venatici in a rather lonely part of the sky.

You might approach it from Coma Berenices, moving south-southeast of alpha CvN to beta Comae, perhaps easiest to find with the naked eye. Beta Comae is twice as far from alpha CvN as beta CvN is from alpha; the three stars make a kind of dog-leg. Now place beta Comae at the western edge of your glasses and move your glasses slightly over a binocular field east; M3 will be found with a group of Coma Berenice stars: binoculars.

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1999-2014 by Richard Dibon-Smith.