Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

VISTA views a vast ball of stars

May 09, 2012
Globular clusters are held together in a tight spherical shape by gravity. In Messier 55, the stars certainly do keep close company: approximately one hundred thousand stars are packed within a sphere with a diameter of only about 25 times the distance between the Sun and the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri.

About 160 globular clusters have been spotted encircling our galaxy, the Milky Way, mostly toward its bulging centre. The two latest discoveries, made using VISTA, were recently announced (eso1141 - http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1141/). The largest galaxies can have thousands of these rich collections of stars in orbit around them.

Observations of globular clusters' stars reveal that they originated around the same time - more than 10 billion years ago - and from the same cloud of gas. As this formative period was just a few billion years after the Big Bang, nearly all of the gas on hand was the simplest, lightest and most common in the cosmos: hydrogen, along with some helium and much smaller amounts of heavier chemical elements such as oxygen and nitrogen.

Being made mostly from hydrogen distinguishes globular cluster residents from stars born in later eras, like our Sun, that are infused with heavier elements created in earlier generations of stars. The Sun lit up some 4.6 billion years ago, making it only about half as old as the elderly stars in most globular clusters. The chemical makeup of the cloud from which the Sun formed is reflected in the abundances of elements found throughout the Solar System - in asteroids, in the planets and in our own bodies.

Sky watchers can find Messier 55 in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The notably large cluster appears nearly two-thirds the width of the full Moon, and is not at all difficult to see in a small telescope, even though it is located at a distance of about 17 000 light-years from Earth.

The French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille first documented the stellar grouping around 1752, and some 26 years later another French astronomer, Charles Messier, included the cluster as the 55th entry in his famous astronomical catalogue. The object is also cross-listed as NGC 6809 in the New General Catalogue, an often-cited and more extensive astronomical catalogue created in the late nineteenth century.

The new image was obtained in infrared light by the 4.1-metre Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA, eso0949) at ESO's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.

As well as the stars of Messier 55, this VISTA image also records many galaxies lying far beyond the cluster. A particularly prominent edge-on spiral galaxy appears to the upper right of the centre of the picture.

###

More information

The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world's largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 40-metre-class European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky".

Links

Photos of VISTA: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&subject_name=Visible%20and%20Infrared%20Survey%20Telescope%20for%20Astronomy

Image of other objects from VISTA: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&facility=30

ESO


Related Globular Clusters Current Events and Globular Clusters News Articles


The riddle of the missing stars
Thanks to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, some of the most mysterious cosmic residents have just become even more puzzling.

Lives and deaths of sibling stars
This beautiful star cluster, NGC 3293, is found 8000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Carina (The Keel).

Entire Star Cluster Thrown Out of its Galaxy
The galaxy known as M87 has a fastball that would be the envy of any baseball pitcher. It has thrown an entire star cluster toward us at more than two million miles per hour.

First planet found around solar twin in star cluster
Astronomers have used ESO's HARPS planet hunter in Chile, along with other telescopes around the world, to discover three planets orbiting stars in the cluster Messier 67.

Hubble views an old and mysterious cluster
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the best ever image of the globular cluster Messier 15, a gathering of very old stars that orbits the centre of the Milky Way.

Soft shells and strange star clusters
PGC 6240 is an elliptical galaxy that resembles a pale rose in the sky, with hazy shells of stars encircling a very bright centre.

NASA's Hubble Shows Link Between Stars' Ages and Their Orbits
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have determined the orbital motion of two distinct populations of stars in an ancient globular star cluster, offering proof they formed at different times and providing a rare look back into the Milky Way galaxy's early days.

How Stars Look Young When They're Not: The Secret of Aging Well
The aging of star clusters is linked more with their lifestyle than with how old they actually are, according to a new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope study coauthored by Steinn Sigurdsson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State.

Stars ancient and modern?
This colourful view of the globular star cluster NGC 6362 was captured by the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Black hole surprise in ancient star cluster
Astronomers have made the unexpected discovery of two black holes inside an ancient cluster of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way.
More Globular Clusters Current Events and Globular Clusters News Articles

Globular Cluster Systems (Cambridge Astrophysics)

Globular Cluster Systems (Cambridge Astrophysics)
by Keith M. Ashman (Author), Stephen E. Zepf (Author)


Globular clusters are roughly spherical, densely packed groups of stars found around galaxies. Most globular clusters probably formed at the same time as their host galaxies. Therefore they provide a unique fossil record of the conditions during the formation and early evolution of galaxies. This volume presents a comprehensive review of globular cluster systems. It summarizes their observed properties and shows how these constrain models of the structure of stars, the formation and evolution of galaxies and globular clusters, and the age of the Universe. For graduate students and researchers, this timely volume provides the definitive reference on globular cluster systems.

Dynamical Evolution of Globular Clusters

Dynamical Evolution of Globular Clusters
by Lyman S. Spitzer (Author)



One of the world's most distinguished astrophysicists presents a comprehensive theoretical treatment of the dynamical evolution of globular clusters. Lyman Spitzcr's research in this field established the framework for decades of investigation. Now he summarizes in a unified, systematic way this branch of theoretical astrophysics with its still challenging problems.
Originally published in 1988.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly...

Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide, Seventh Edition (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides)

Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide, Seventh Edition (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides)
by Dinah L. Moche (Author)


Discover the wonders of the night sky with this bestselling Astronomy GuideFor a generation, Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide has introduced hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide to the night sky. Now this classic beginner's guide has been completely revised to bring it up to date with the latest discoveries.Updated with the latest, most accurate information and more than 100 new graphics and photos, this Seventh Edition features:Web site addresses throughout for the best color images and astronomy resources onlineTechnical ideas made simple without mathematicsA beautiful new full-color, glossy insert with spectacular astro-imagesAn interactive format with learning goals, reviews, self-tests, and answers for fast learningFive beginners' Star and Moon maps for fun stargazingDinah L....

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)


“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, and—most important— humanity.” —Entertainment Weekly Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, ?Death by Black Hole? explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America's best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our...

Cosmos

Cosmos
by Carl Sagan (Author), Ann Druyan (Introduction), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Introduction)


RETURNING TO TELEVISION AS AN ALL-NEW MINISERIES ON FOX

Cosmos is one of the bestselling science books of all time. In clear-eyed prose, Sagan reveals a jewel-like blue world inhabited by a life form that is just beginning to discover its own identity and to venture into the vast ocean of space. Featuring a new Introduction by Sagan’s collaborator, Ann Druyan, full color illustrations, and a new Foreword by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos retraces the fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness, exploring such topics as the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the Sun, the evolution of galaxies, and the forces and individuals who helped to shape modern...

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides)

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides)
by Lee Allen Peterson (Author), Lee Allen Peterson (Illustrator), Lee Allen Peterson (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Illustrator)


More than 370 edible wild plants, plus 37 poisonous look-alikes, are described here, with 400 drawings and 78 color photographs showing precisely how to recognize each species. Also included are habitat descriptions, lists of plants by season, and preparation instructions for 22 different food uses.

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)


Presenting the latest exciting findings on space exploration and research and cutting-edge, spectacular views of the universe that technology is bringing back to Earth, all in one ultimate reference book. Authored by David A. Aguilar of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia is ideal for the family bookshelf, providing both accessible information for school reports and compelling reading on the mysteries beyond our world.

Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - and How to Find Them

Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - and How to Find Them
by Guy Consolmagno (Author), Dan M. Davis (Author)


With over 100,000 copies sold since first publication, this is one of the most popular astronomy books of all time. It is a unique guidebook to the night sky, providing all the information you need to observe a whole host of celestial objects. With a new spiral binding, this edition is even easier to use outdoors at the telescope and is the ideal beginner's book. Keeping its distinct one-object-per-spread format, this edition is also designed for Dobsonian telescopes, as well as for smaller reflectors and refractors, and covers Southern hemisphere objects in more detail. Large-format eyepiece views, positioned side-by-side, show objects exactly as they are seen through a telescope, and with improved directions, updated tables of astronomical information and an expanded night-by-night Moon...

50 Things To See With A Small Telescope

50 Things To See With A Small Telescope
by John A Read (Author)


50 Things to See with a Small Telescope is composed of the go-to objects observed at public stargazing events all over the Northern Hemisphere. People of all ages frequently ask, “How did you find that so quickly?” Well, this book will explain just that! The planets in our solar system, the International Space Station, sunspots, birds, nebula, airplanes, and comets are just some of the items that his book will help you find! If you have been having difficulties enjoying your small telescope, this book is for you. There is something interesting about pretty much everything in outer space and it is exciting how many pop-culture references are derived from things in the night sky! Viewing the stars referenced in Star Trek, or talking about a character in Harry Potter named after a...

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author), Donald Goldsmith (Author)


“Who can ask for better cosmic tour guides to the universe than Drs. Tyson and Goldsmith?” —Michio Kaku, author of Hyperspace and Parallel Worlds Our true origins are not just human, or even terrestrial, but in fact cosmic. Drawing on recent scientific breakthroughs and the current cross-pollination among geology, biology, astrophysics, and cosmology, ?Origins? explains the soul-stirring leaps in our understanding of the cosmos. From the first image of a galaxy birth to Spirit Rover's exploration of Mars, to the discovery of water on one of Jupiter's moons, coauthors Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith conduct a galvanizing tour of the cosmos with clarity and exuberance. 32 pages of color illustrations

© 2014 BrightSurf.com