Hubble Space Telescope captures star-studded globular cluster


The Hubble Space Telescope captures a star-studded image inside a globular cluster in the constellation Sagittarius. Photo courtesy of R. Cohen/ESA/Hubble & NASA.

Aug. 9 (UPI) — The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a dazzling display at the heart of a globular cluster of stars in the constellation Sagittarius.

NASA and the European Space Agency released Hubble’s latest image, and a video, which was taken with the telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys. It shows globular cluster NGC 6638 with hundreds of thousands or even millions of spherical-shaped ancient stars tightly packed together.

Globular clusters are associated with all types of galaxies. There are 150 known globular clusters in the Milky Way galaxy, according to Georgia State University’s Astrophysics website.

The gravitational pull between the densely packed stars gives globular clusters their spherical shape. Stars in globular clusters can survive to be billions of years old, much older than stars in open clusters.

Hubble, which orbits 340 miles above Earth where the atmosphere is thin, provides a better view of each individual star within a globular cluster than ground-based telescopes where the atmosphere can cloud the image.

The blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere makes it impossible to distinguish one star from another. Hubble’s clear image allows astronomers to study the individual stars and how they evolved.

Hubble is more than 30 years old, but scientists plan to continue using it in conjunction with the James Webb Space Telescope which is 1 million miles from Earth.

NASA plans to use Webb to observe the globular cluster at infrared wavelengths, versus Hubble’s visible-light spectrum, which are less affected by the gas and dust surrounding newborn stars.

Despite decades of work, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to produce dramatic photos from space.

Last week, NASA released an image from Hubble showing a gravitationally lensed galaxy which appeared as the mirror image of two galaxies in the northern constellation Bootes.

In March, Hubble spotted a star 12.9 billion light years away from Earth, the oldest and most distant object ever recorded. It was spotted again and its existence confirmed last week by the Webb telescope.

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA