A favourite target for amateur astronomers, the Wild Duck Cluster, also known as Messier 11 and, more formally NGC 6705, is a stunning sight in even small telescopes with its brightest stars forming a “V” shape reminiscent of a flock of ducks. Located in the constellation Scutum, the cluster is about 6,200 light years from Earth and contains nearly 3,000 stars, making it one of the richest and most compact open clusters known. It was discovered in 1681 and included in comet-hunter Charles Messier’s famous catalogue in 1764. This view from the Hubble Space Telescope was chosen as “Picture of the Week” at the European Space Agency’s Hubble site.
A composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a dramatic range of color in galaxy NGC 3344, a weakly barred spiral half the size of the Milky Way some 20 million light years away in the constellation Leo Minor. Hot young stars, seen in blue, populate the spiral arms along with glowing red clouds of gas and dust that provide the raw materials for new suns.
Records are made to be broken, as the expression goes, but rarely are records left so thoroughly in the dust. Stunned astronomers have witnessed a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova — events which already rank amongst the mightiest outbursts in the universe — and more than twice as luminous as the previous record-holding supernova.
The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array has produced a spectacularly detailed image of a distant galaxy known as SDP.81 that is being gravitationally lensed. The image shows a magnified view of the galaxy’s star-forming regions, the likes of which have never been seen before at this level of detail in a galaxy so remote.