After Omega Centauri, 47 Tucanae is the brightest globular cluster in the night sky.
|Observation data (J2000 epoch)|
|Right ascension||00h 24m 05.67s|
|Declination||–72° 04′ 52.6″|
|Distance||16.70 ± 0.85 kly (5.1 ± 0.26 kpc)|
|Apparent magnitude (V)||+4.91|
|Apparent dimensions (V)||30′.9|
|Metallicity||= –0.78 dex|
|Estimated age||13.06 Gyr|
|Notable features||2nd brightest globular cluster after Omega Centauri|
|Other designations||ξ Tuc, NGC 104, GCl 1 1RXS J002404.6-720456|
47 Tucanae (NGC 104) or just 47 Tuc is a globular cluster located in the constellation Tucana. It is about 16,700 light years away from Earth, and 120 light years across. It can be seen with the naked eye, with a visual apparent magnitude of 4.9. Its number comes not from the Flamsteed catalogue, but the more obscure 1801 "Allgemeine Beschreibung und Nachweisung der Gestirne nebst Verzeichniss" compiled by Johann Elert Bode.
It is the second brightest globular cluster in the sky (after Omega Centauri), and is noted for having a very bright and dense core. It is also one of the most massive globular clusters in the Galaxy, containing millions of stars. The cluster appears roughly the size of the full moon in the sky under ideal conditions. It appears close in the sky to the Small Magellanic Cloud. However, the SMC is some 210,000 light-years distant, and not physically close to 47 Tuc.
The core of 47 Tucanae was the subject of a major survey for planets, using the Hubble Space Telescope to look for partial eclipses of stars by their planets. No planets were found, though 10-15 were expected based on the rate of planet discoveries around stars near the Sun. This indicates that planets are relatively rare in globular clusters. A later ground-based survey in the uncrowded outer regions of the cluster also failed to detect planets when several were expected. This strongly indicates that the low metallicity of the environment, rather than the crowding, is responsible.
47 Tucanae's dense core contains a number of exotic stars of scientific interest. Globular clusters efficiently sort stars by mass, with the most massive stars falling to the center. 47 Tucanae contains at least 21 blue stragglers near its core. It also contains hundreds of X-ray sources, including stars with enhanced chromospheric activity due to their presence in binary star systems, cataclysmic variable stars containing white dwarfs accreting from companion stars, and low-mass X-ray binaries containing neutron stars that are not currently accreting, but can be observed by the X-rays emitted from the hot surface of the neutron star. 47 Tucanae has 25 known millisecond pulsars, the second largest population of pulsars in any globular cluster. These pulsars are thought to be spun up by the accretion of material from binary companion stars, in a previous X-ray binary phase. The companion of one pulsar in 47 Tucanae, 47 Tucanae W, seems to still be transferring mass towards the neutron star, indicating that this system is completing a transition from being an accreting low-mass X-ray binary to a millisecond pulsar. X-ray emission has been individually detected from most millisecond pulsars in 47 Tucanae with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, likely emission from the neutron star surface, and gamma-ray emission has been detected with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope from its millisecond pulsar population (making 47 Tucanae the first globular cluster to be detected in gamma-rays).
There is no evidence yet for the existence of any black holes in 47 Tucanae; Hubble Space Telescope data provides the strongest constraint on the mass of any possible black hole at its center, less than 1,500 times the mass of the Sun.
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