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Intergalactic Wanderer

C25, NGC 2419

The constellation of Lynx encloses an area of sky far from the Milky Way's galactic disc, looking outward from the Galaxy into the depths of intergalactic space. Lynx is therefore a generally sparse constellation describing a quiet area of the sky that contains few important deep sky objects.

One notable exception lies in the south of constellation, a little northward of the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. This is a solitary object: a dense clump of stars lying out in intergalactic space, far beyond the Galaxy's rim. When its great distance was first determined, it was thought that this cluster literally wandered the space between galaxies, and it became known as the Intergalactic Wanderer. This original conception was later revised when it was found that the cluster does in fact pursue an orbit around the Milky Way, albeit is an extraordinarily distant one carrying it far beyond the Magellanic Clouds and takning millions of years to complete.

The Intergalactic Wanderer belongs to the class of globular clusters, dense and approximately spherical masses of stars, in this case about 260 light years across. Clusters of this kind are relatively commonplace in the halo surrounding the Galaxy, but the Wanderer is remarkable for its great distance. It is in fact one of the most intrinsically bright clusters of its kind, but at a distance of some 300,000 light years, it appears faint in the skies of Earth, with a visual magnitude of just +9.1.


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