GREENBELT, Md. — A new jaw-dropping image from space has astronomers quoting that famous line from “2001: A Space Odyssey” — “My God, it’s full of stars!”
NASA has unveiled a galactic cluster packed with vibrant points of light. While many images from space these days come from the state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope, this one actually come from the older Hubble Telescope.
“The glittering, glitzy contents of the globular cluster NGC 6652 sparkle in this star-studded image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope,” NASA officials write in a media release.
“The core of the cluster is suffused with the pale blue light of countless stars, and a handful of particularly bright foreground stars are adorned with crisscrossing diffraction spikes.”
“NGC 6652 lies in our own Milky Way galaxy in the constellation Sagittarius, just under 30,000 light-years from Earth and only 6,500 light-years from the galactic center.”
Globular clusters are stable, densely-packed clusters that are tightly bound by gravity, containing anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of stars. Their spherical shape is the result of the intense gravitational attraction between closely packed stars within the clusters.
The image in question has been compiled using data from two of Hubble’s most advanced cameras: the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3. Additionally, the data has been drawn from two distinct observing programs, each conducted by separate teams of astronomers.
The first team embarked on a survey of globular clusters within the Milky Way galaxy, aiming to shed light on various subjects, ranging from the ages of these clusters to the overall gravitational potential of the galaxy itself.
The second team of astronomers employed a set of three highly sensitive filters in Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Their goal was to discern the proportions of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen within specific globular clusters, such as NGC 6652.
The Webb telescope is currently the largest telescope in space, being equipped with high-resolution and high-sensitivity instruments, allowing it to view objects which are usually too old, distant, or faint for Hubble.
South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.