Hubble watching ancient orbs

Sep 08, 2012
Credit: ESA/NASA

(Phys.org)—This sparkling picture taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the center of globular cluster M 4. The power of Hubble has resolved the cluster into a multitude of glowing orbs, each a colossal nuclear furnace.

M 4 is relatively close to us, lying 7200 light-years distant, making it a prime object for study. It contains several tens of thousands stars and is noteworthy in being home to many —the cores of ancient, dying stars whose outer layers have drifted away into space.

In July 2003, Hubble helped make the astounding discovery of a planet called PSR B1620-26 b, 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter, which is located in this cluster. Its age is estimated to be around 13 billion years—almost three times as old as the Solar System! It is also unusual in that it orbits a binary system of a white dwarf and a pulsar (a type of neutron star).

Amateur stargazers may like to track M 4 down in the night sky. Use binoculars or a small telescope to scan the skies near the orange-red star Antares in Scorpius. M 4 is bright for a globular cluster, but it won't look anything like Hubble's detailed image: it will appear as a fuzzy ball of light in your eyepiece.

Explore further: Image: NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo

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User comments : 4

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Digi
1 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2012
They are assuming the planet belongs to that system. It is far more likely the planet was captured by the binary. The neutron star must have suffered a supernova event at some point in time, I doubt the planet would have survived that.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2012
That's an incredible image. I'd like to see the glare-removed version, without the "star" glints and diffused edges. There should be software that can do that..?
Zenmaster
1 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2012
Is it possible that globular clusters could actually be relatively young formations, compared to spirals?
jyro
1 / 5 (5) Sep 10, 2012
Each being a nuke reaction and each sending out high energy particles. Harvest and use those high energy particles and Earth's energy problem is solved. Someday we'll figure it all out.