On September 14, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), posted a tweet on its official Twitter handle, featuring a cluster of tightly packed stars from a distant galaxy. In the stunning picture, Twitter users can see 100s to 1000s of stars packed closely together and shimmering.
Most of the brightest stars in this picture appear to be emitting blue and orange colours, while the backdrop of space appears to be dark brown in colour. This breathtaking picture was snapped by none other than NASA and European Space Agency’s (ESA) Hubble telescope and was posted on NASA’s official website nasa.gov on September 11.
This @NASAHubble image of red and blue stars shows a globular cluster with stars packed 100 to 1,000 times more closely than in our part of space. The data used to create this image is helping astronomers understand how stars evolve and ultimately die out: https://t.co/JF3DbtYhE5 pic.twitter.com/hXBwgPv70a— NASA (@NASA) September 13, 2020
According to a report on the space agency’s website by NASA editor Rob Garner, this tightly packed group of stars are located near the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. It is located at the distance 158,200 light-years from Earth. The cluster of blue and orange stars featured in the breathtaking Hubble image is from the globular cluster NGC 1805.
This young globular cluster is more clearly visible from the Dorado constellation, which is a constellation in the southern sky. Dorado was named in the late 16th century. Today it is one of the 88 modern constellations. Dorado in Portuguese means a swordfish.
One of the more peculiar features of globular clusters is that they contain stars that are born around the same time. But the NGC 1805, is very bizarre and does not seem to adhere to the rule like other global clusters. The NASA report states that this particular cluster might be the host to two different populations of stars, hence their ages might be millions of years apart. The reason that astronomers marvel at the opportunity to study this kind of clusters is that it helps them to understand how stars evolve and how they age. This will also reveal the factors that determine whether a star will end its life as a white dwarf or explode like a supernova.
The stars featuring in the picture orbit closely to one another, just like bees swarming around a hive. The centre of the cluster is extremely dense and stars in this area are 100 to 1,000 times closer to each other than the nearest stars are to our Sun. Hence, it can be only be imagined as this point, how different their planetary systems would be to ours.
What catches the attention of a viewer in this image is the striking difference in the colours of these stars. Some stars appear to be blue while shining brightest in near-ultraviolet light, others are red and are illuminated in near-infrared. Space telescopes such as Hubble are able to not only spot but also observe these stars in the ultraviolet because they are stationed above the Earth’s atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere tends to absorb most ultraviolet light, making these celestial views inaccessible to the ground-based facilities of NASA.