Star Clusters

Published on October 18, 2017 by Jillian Fantin  
Image Credit: ESA, Hubble and NASA
Image Credit: ESA, Hubble and NASA

From the comfort of our own galaxy, our own planet, and even our own homes, we are able to observe unique elements of our universe with the technology we’ve developed.

Exposures from the Wide Field Channel of the Hubble Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys created a picture of the Coma Galaxy Cluster, which lies in the direction of the constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxies within the Coma Cluster are around 350 million light years away. The brightest object, which is seen on the right side of the image, is the elliptical galaxy NGC 4874. NGC 4874 is at the center of the Coma Galaxy Clyster and is ten times larger than our own Milky Way!

In the captured image, NGC 4874 is surrounded by point-like objects. Due to the galaxy’s strong gravitational pull, it is able to take hold of over thirty thousand globular clusters of stars and some dwarf galaxies. Each of those globular clusters of stars houses hundreds of thousands of stars, and NGC 4874 has a hold on the most star clusters of any known galaxy. It was only recently that astronomers distinguished some of those supposed globular clusters as ultra-compact dwarf galaxies. These dwarf galaxies are around two hundred light years across and made up of old stars. Scientists believe that these are the cores of small elliptical galaxies that ended up losing their gases and surrounding stars because of violent interactions with other galaxies within the cluster itself.

Aside from NGC 4874 and the galaxies and star clusters in its gravitational hold, the image also shows galaxies at distances up to billions of light years away. The Hubble Space Telescope continues proving itself to be incredibly helpful to scientific discovery and continues to provide us with incredible views of our solar system! #GetExcitedSU