Messier 10

by Tammy Plotner on May 24, 2009

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m10

Object Name: Messier 10
Alternative Designations: M10, NGC 6254
Object Type: Class VII Globular Cluster
Constellation: Ophiuchus
Right Ascension: 16 : 57.1 (h:m)
Declination: -04 : 06 (deg:m)
Distance: 14.3 (kly)
Visual Brightness: 6.6 (mag)
Apparent Dimension: 20.0 (arc min)

m10_m12_map

Locating Messier 10: In binoculars, M10 is a same-field binocular pair with globular cluster M12 located about half a fistwidth west of Beta Ophiuchi, M10 is the southernmost of this pair and will appear brighter. To help orient yourself to the correct area, identify Beta Scorpii as your first starhop marker. Slightly more than a fistwidth north, you will see the twin Yed stars (Delta and Epsilon). To the northeast are another close, bright pairing – Beta and Gamma Ophiuchi. M10 and M12 are about 1/3 the distance between the twin Yeds and the Beta/Gamma pair. Both are bright enough to be seen as a small, fuzzy patch in the finderscope.

What You Are Looking At: Although they seem to be close together and close in size, the M10/M12 pair are actually separated by some 2,000 light-years. M10 is a much more concentrated globular showing a brighter core region to even the most modest of instruments. This compression of stars is what classifies one type of globular cluster from another, and M10 appears brighter, not because of this compression, but because it is about 2,000 light-years closer. It spans about 83 light years of space and contains at least four variable stars.

m10aTraveling away from us at 69 kilometers per second, 532 stars have been measured for their absolute proper motions, and we know that two of them are population II cepheids. Why is knowing proper motion so important? So we can study the evolution. According to studies done on M10 by Oleg Y. Gnedin (et al): “As an example, we investigate the evolution of models for the globular cluster NGC 6254. Using the Hipparcos proper motions, we are now able to construct orbits of this cluster in the Galaxy. Tidal shocks accelerate significantly both core collapse and the evaporation of the cluster and shorten the destruction time from 24 to 18 Gyr. We examine various types of adiabatic corrections and find that they are critical for accurate calculation of the evolution. Without adiabatic corrections, the destruction time of the cluster is twice as short. We examine cluster evolution for a wide range of the concentration and tidal shock parameters and determine the region of the parameter space where tidal shocks dominate the evolution. We present fitting formulae for the core collapse time and the destruction time, covering all reasonable initial conditions. In the limit of strong shocks, the typical value of the core collapse time decreases from 10trh to 3trh or less, while the destruction time is just twice that number. The effects of tidal shocks are rapidly self-limiting: as clusters lose mass and become more compact, the importance of the shocks diminishes. This implies that tidal shocks were more important in the past.”

History: M10 was discovered by Charles Messier on May 29, 1764. Said he; “In the night of May 29 to 30, 1764, I have determined the position of a nebula which I have discovered in the girdle of Ophiuchus, near the 30th star of that constellation, of sixth magnitude. according to the catalog of Flamsteed. When having examined that nebula with a Gregorian telescope of 30 pouces which magnified 104 times, I have not seen any star there: it is round and beautiful, its diameter is about 4 minutes of arc; one sees it difficultly with an ordinary [non-achromatic] refractor of one foot [FL]. Near that nebula one perceives a small telescopic star. I have determined the right ascension of that nebula as 251d 12′ 6″, and its declination as 3d 42′ 18″ south. I marked that nebula in the chart of the apparent path of the Comet which I have observed last year [the comet of 1769].”

280px-messier_10_hubble_wikiskyAlthough William Herschel would be the first to resolve it into stars, it is the words of Admiral Symth which most accurately reflect how M10 truly looks in the average telescope: “A rich globular cluster of compressed stars, on the Serpent-holder’s right hip. This noble phenomenon is of a lucid white tint, somewhat attenuated at the margin, and clustering to a blaze in the centre. It is so easily resolvable with very moderate means, that we are surprised at Messier’s remark, on registering it in 1764: “A beautiful round nebula. It may be seen, with attention, by a telescope of three feet in length.” The mean apparent place of the central mass, was differentiated with Epsilon Ophiuchi, which it follows nearly on the same eastern parallel, at about 8deg distance; being nearly midway between Beta Librae and Alpha Aquilae, and about a degree preceding [west of] 30 Ophiuchi, a star of the 6th magnitude, with a smaller one preceding it. Sir William Herschel resolved this object; in 1784 he applied his 20-foot reflector, and made it a beautiful cluster of extremely compressed stars, resembling Messier’s No. 53. He estimated its profundity to be of the 243rd order.”

Whether you resolve it or not – the beauty is finding it!

B&W image thanks to Palomar Observatory, courtesy of Caltech, color image thanks to N.A.Sharp, REU program/NOAO/AURA/NSF and thanks to HST and NASA.

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

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