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.
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 eerie glow of a dead star, which exploded long ago as a supernova, reveals itself in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula in the constellation of Taurus. But don’t be fooled. The ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse. Buried at its centre is the star’s telltale heart — a neutron star which beats with rhythmic precision.