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Twinkle twinkle globular star cluster

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Messier 107, taken by Hubble. Credit: NASA/ESA

The Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 took this picture of a cluster of ancient stars in the Milky Way, known as Messier 107. It is a globular cluster that is eighty light years across and about 20,000 light years from the solar system.

Globular clusters contain hundreds of thousands of stars held together in a sphere by gravity. Towards the centre of the cluster the stars are packed closer together. Globular clusters contain stars that are much older than the ones within a spiral galaxy’s arms – typically, they are the oldest in a galaxy.

Messier 107 sits in the Milky Way’s galactic halo, which surrounds its main disk, along with 150 other clusters. In dense clusters, stars can sometimes collide. But Messier 107 is not a particularly tightly packed cluster. Hubble can easily pick out individual stars, as anyone can in the photograph above.

Nobody is quite sure how globular clusters form. Many, but not all, contain stars that are all at the same stage in their evolution, suggesting that they all formed at around the same time. And globular clusters tend to be in places in the universe where stellar birth rates are high. But the details are still fuzzy, so telescopes will continue to point towards these clusters and take pictures, like the one above, to try and make clearer the universe we live in.

Kelly Oakes About the Author: Kelly Oakes has a master's in science communication and a physics degree, both from Imperial College London. Now she spends her days writing about science. Follow on Twitter @kahoakes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. jasongoldman 5:36 pm 07/24/2012

    Is this a photo of the visible light from the cluster? Or is it artificially colored?

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  2. 2. Kelly Oakes in reply to Kelly Oakes 5:54 pm 07/24/2012

    It’s visible and infrared light, with some red and blue filters by the looks of it (see the “Colours & filters” bit here).

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  3. 3. dadster 5:53 pm 07/25/2012

    Fantastic picture ! An overwhelming celestial display of Sparkling Gems and diamonds of the universe ! Amazing ! Truly breathtakingly Brilliant, an eye-feast and a soul-feast ! Thank you NASA .Thank you Kelly !

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  4. 4. vinodkumarsehgal 8:41 am 07/27/2012

    To Kelly Oakes

    Why the stars in M107 globular cluster are more concentrated towards center? Could there be some black hole or some high gravitational source at the center of M107? Is this feature present in other 150 globular clusters also? Roughly how may stars will there be in M107?

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