Updated: Jun 7
Messier 5 is a globular cluster in the constellation Serpens, 24,500 light-years away from Earth. It is an easy target for beginner astrophotographers looking to capture a beautiful cluster and is one of the largest globular clusters in our Milky Way galaxy.
Messier 5 is not a popular object for astrophotographers, but it is well known among the visual astronomy community as one of the best clusters to observe in the entire night sky.
We imaged Messier 5 from a Bortle 4 zone. It was not our primary target so we only spent about one hour on it before switching to a different object. You can see our results in this post!
Object Designation: M5
Also known as: N/A
Object Type: Globular Cluster
Distance: 24,500 light-years away
Discovered in: 1702
The image on the left shows Messier 5 taken by NASA.
M5 is very colorful, with many bright blue and yellow stars. It is densely concentrated and hundreds of individual stars can be counted (if you're bored enough 😅).
Messier 5 appears about 3 arc minutes larger than the most popular globular cluster in the Messier catalog, the Hercules Cluster (M13). Visually though, it is more difficult to spot.
Below is our image of Messier 5. There is still some noise visible in the background, but it overall looks decent considering it is only one hour of total exposure.
M5 with an OSC camera and a refractor telescope.
Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130
Mount: Astro-Physics Mach1
Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini
Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser
Total Exposure Time: 1 hour
Exposure Time per frame: 1 minute
How to Locate M5
Messier 5 can be found in the constellation Serpens 🐍.
Serpens is special, as it is "cut" in two parts and is the only constellation to be in two completely different patches of the sky. One part of the constellation (Serpens Caput) represents the snake's head, while the second half (Serpens Cauda) represents the serpent's tail. In Greek mythology, the constellation is cut because Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer Asclepius, is seen holding a snake in the sky.
You can learn more about all 88 constellations in The Constellations Handbook!
To find M5, first, locate the head of the snake, Serpens Caput. From there, try to spot 5 Serpentis, a bright star that is not part of the shape of the snake. M5 can be spotted just next to this star.
Processing Messier 5
Processing M5 is very easy, as long as your guiding was excellent throughout the night. Make sure to delete any frame that shows star trails, even if it is minimal, or your cluster will end up looking blurry and messy.
Besides that, a simple background extraction, color correction, noise reduction and slight detail enhancement workflow is enough to bring out the cluster. Finish up with some Curves transformations and color saturation, and that's it! You really do not need to spend hours processing this object. Globular clusters are usually easy to process unless there is some nebulosity in the vicinity.
The picture below shows what a single shot of M5 looks like unprocessed. This is one minute long from a Bortle 4 zone.
Process your photos the way we do by following our processing workflow guide HERE.
Want to learn all aspects of astrophotography in the most efficient way possible?
The Galactic Course includes a LIFETIME membership that gives you unlimited access to all current and upcoming astrophotography content. Step into an ever-growing realm of knowledge and learn at your own pace. Make life-long friends and connections with other members, and get tips from instructors that truly care about your journey and progress under the night sky.
Messier 5 is an easy target for beginner astrophotographers. It is large, bright, and impressive! M5 is one of the best globular clusters to image, and does not require many hours of exposure time.
Have you captured M5? Attach your image in the comments and let us know your acquisition details!