Galaxies peek through star clouds in massive cluster

In this razor-sharp view of NGC 339 from the Hubble Space Telescope, countless stars gleam in a stellar metropolis located in the Small Magellanic Cloud some 200,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Tucana. The assembly resembles a more familiar globular cluster, but the stars making up NGC 339 are thought to be about 6.5 billion years old, about half the age of more common globulars. No such intermediate-age clusters have been found in the Milky Way, and their relationship to globulars is not yet clear.

In this detailed image, numerous galaxies can be seen in the far distance, their light passing through the crowded cluster on the way to Earth. Click on the image blow to zoom in. Click again to zoom in even more, making the galaxies easier to spot.

Image: ESA/Hubble/NASA