Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Globular Cluster M107 as imaged by Hubble

Globular Cluster M107 as imaged by Hubble
Click on the image for full resolution (18.9 MB)

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a crowd of stars that looks rather like a stadium darkened before a show, lit only by the flashbulbs of the audience's cameras. Yet the many stars of this object, known as M107 (Messier 107), are not a fleeting phenomenon, at least by human reckoning of time - these ancient stars have gleamed for many billions of years. M107 is one of more than 150 globular star clusters found around the disc of the Milky Way galaxy. These spherical collections each contain hundreds of thousands of extremely old stars and are among the oldest objects in the Milky Way. The origin of globular clusters and their impact on galactic evolution remains somewhat unclear, so astronomers continue to study them through pictures such as this one obtained by Hubble. As globular clusters go, M107 is not particularly dense. Visually comparing its appearance to other globular clusters, such as M53 or Messier 54 reveals that the stars within Messier 107 are not packed as tightly, thereby making its members more distinct like individual fans in a stadium's stands. M107 can be found in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer) and is located about 20 000 light-years from the Solar System. French astronomer Pierre Méchain first noted the object in 1782, and British astronomer William Herschel documented it independently a year later. A Canadian astronomer, Helen Sawyer Hogg, added M107 to Charles Messier's famous astronomical catalogue in 1947. This picture was obtained with the Wide Field Camera of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The field of view is approximately 3.4 by 3.4 arcminutes.
The full resolution image weighs 18.9 MB, so please be patient when downloading!
Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA
Image enhancedment: Jean-Baptiste Faure

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