Posts Tagged ‘globular cluster’

Starry Sparkler

Credit: ESA/NASA Hubble


Zooming into this intense swarm of stars is enough to dazzle any astronaut. Explore the very heart of globular cluster Messier 9 in this amazing image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. What stories can you tell? Leave a note below.

Globular clusters are spherical collections of hundreds of thousands of stars. They are also ancient; forming before the Milky Way Galaxy. These groups of stars are tightly bound by gravity. The closer toward the center we travel in a globular cluster, the more tightly stars are packed. Stars at the center of a globular cluster are less than a light-year apart. Some astronomers believe that black holes may lurk at the very center of globular clusters. As we travel toward the center of M9 look for different colors of stars. Redder stars are cooler while blue stars are extremely hot.

Messier 9, or NGC 6333, is one of the nearer globular clusters to Earth. French astronomer Charles Messier discovered M9 in 1764. Generally, globular clusters orbit the galaxy at great distances like a satellite orbits the Earth. M9 is actually closer to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy about 25,800 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Handler.

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Starry Critter

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Compact and distant, globular star cluster NGC 7006 resembles a fuzzy starry critter in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this group of stars brought into sharp focus by the powerful telescope aboard Hubble. What stories or patterns do you see? Leave a note below.

NGC 7006 is a faraway part of the Milky Way Galaxy. At about 135,000 light-years from Earth, it and many other globular clusters form a sparse halo around our galaxy. This globular cluster is more than five times more distant than the Sun’s distance from the center of the galaxy. Globular clusters are groups of tightly woven groups of stars that are bound together by gravity. They likely formed at about the same time. Astronomers use globular clusters to study how stars formed.

NGC 7006 currently is moving away from the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s orbit is very elongated, or eccentric. Astronomers theorize that the globular cluster formed with another small galaxy and was captured by our galaxy during a galactic interaction in the past. But while NGC 7006 is very distant, it is much closer than the many background galaxies seen in the image. The light from these faroff smudges of light has taken millions of years to reach our eyes come from galaxies that are millions of light-years from Earth. Their

Life on the Edge

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

An ancient ball of stars, known as NGC 6934, lies at the outer reaches our galaxy in this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this great cluster of a few hundred thousand stars. Globular clusters are groups of stars that are born together from great clouds of gas and dust. Usually star clusters drift apart over time, but gravity holds these clusters together. NGC 6934 lies about 50,000 light-years from Earth toward the dim constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. The globular cluster is home to some of the most remote stars in our galaxy. NGC 6934 was first seen by William Herschel in the late 18th century. The cluster is just one of about 150 other globular clusters that form a distant halo around the core of the Milky Way.

The colors in the image are a bit misleading however. New stars are usually blue in color. Big, blue stars don’t usually live very long before exploding as supernovae. Globular clusters are incredibly ancient. So why all the blue stars in the image? Astronomers sometimes take images of stars through colored filters to learn more about the stars. The red-colored stars are glowing brightly in infrared meaning they are probably red giants. The blue stars are actually yellow-orange in color. Many of the stars in this cluster are probably similar to our Sun, although much older.

Astronomers use globular clusters as a key to understanding how stars form. Since all of the stars are born at about the same time from the same cloud, astronomers can focus on other details of the stars particularly about how they age and die.

Star Horses

Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio (STScI)

Taken in 2008, the Hubble Space Telescope focused on this area of new star birth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The stormy looking sea looks to be home to a seahorse, or star horse. Astronomers also call this nebula NGC 2074. The star horse is a dark area floating in background of blues, greens and reds. One day, this dark dusty area will be home to new stars.

NGC 2074 lies about 170,000 light years away at the edge of the Tarantula Nebula.

Hubble images are made up of many smaller images. Scientists then put them together into the images we see. There were no images to fill in the area in the upper right.


Credit: ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler, C. C. Thöne, C. Féron, and J.-E. Ovaldsen

I don’t like spiders very much. Blame it on an incident from when I was a teenager. I find them fascinating but I don’t want them crawling on me. The idea of a spider with legs that stretch out for a 1,000 light years hovering over me at night might give me scary dreams until I see how beautiful some spiders can be.

This “spider” lives in the skies of the southern hemisphere 180,000 light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The more scientific names for the Tarantula Nebula are 30 Doradus or NGC 2070. Astronomers named the nebula after the largest spider on Earth because of the way the light patches resembled spider legs in their telescopes. The Tarantula Nebula is a star making area, one of the most active that we’ve seen. One day, far in the future, the Tarantula Nebula probably will form into a globular cluster, a place where thousands of stars lie close together. For now, scientists are interested in this area because Supernova 1987A exploded on the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula. Will more explode?

This image is based on data taken through the earthbound 1.5 meter telescope at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, ESO, La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Look for more animals hovering near or inside the Tarantula Nebula.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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