NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope caught a magnificent view of Messier 79. It resembles a swirling snowstorm in a snow globe.
Messier 79 aka M79, is a globular cluster and it lies in the constellation Lepus, 41,000 light-years from Earth. It’s also known as NGC 1904 in the astronomical catalog.
Experts made the photo and GIF out of several photos that show the details of the system.
There are as many as 1 million stars in the Hubble’s photo. The most central part, m79, contains about 150,000 stars. According to NASA, they are all packed into an area measuring only 118 light-years across.
The stars you see in the photo, are one of the oldest in our galaxy, estimated to be 11.7 billion years old.
However, M79 has an unusual location.
“Most globular clusters are grouped around the central hub of our pinwheel-shaped galaxy,” researchers said in a statement. But M79’s home is nearly on the opposite side of the sky from the direction of the galactic center.
The reason behind this unusual location might be because of its neighborhood that may contain a higher-than-average density of stars, which fueled its formation. Another possibility is that M79 may have formed in an unusual dwarf galaxy that is merging with the Milky Way.
However, the image represents a natural view of the cluster.
“The reddish stars are bright giants that represent the final stages of a star’s life. Most of the blue stars sprinkled throughout the cluster are aging “helium-burning” stars. These bright blue stars have exhausted their hydrogen fuel and are now fusing helium in their cores,” researchers said in the same statement.
Astronomers call the blue fainter stars “blue stragglers”. They look younger and hotter, but they actually formed from a stellar collision.
It was Pierre Méchain that discovered this star cluster in 1780. Méchain reported the finding to Charles Messier, who included it in his catalog of non-cometary objects. About 4 years later, William Herschel used a larger telescope than Messier’s, thus, resolving the stars in M79. He also described it as a “globular star cluster.”
The image is a combination of observations taken in 1995 and 1997 by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.
Thumbnail image: Hubble’s Celestial Snow Globe. Credit: NASA/ESA/S. Djorgovski (Caltech)/F. Ferraro (University of Bologna)