When amateur astronomers turn their telescopes toward Hercules, the usual target is Messier 13, one of the brightest, easiest-to-find globular clusters in the northern sky. But a stone’s throw away is another bright companion – M92 – that runs a close second, containing some 330,000 stars orbiting the Milky Way’s core at a distance of 33,000 light years. Visible to the unaided eye under dark sky conditions, M92 was discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1777. Four years later, Charles Messier spotted it and added the cluster to his famous catalogue. Neither man could have imagined the splendour revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope as seen in this stunning view.
Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory to discover an extremely luminous, variable X-ray source located outside the centre of its parent galaxy. This peculiar object could be a wandering black hole that came from a small galaxy falling into a larger one.
Galactic arms, sunflowers and whirlpools are only a few examples of nature’s apparent preference for spirals. A beautiful example is Messier 63, nicknamed the Sunflower Galaxy, its winding arms shining bright due to the presence of recently formed, blue–white giant stars and clusters, readily seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image.
Scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have produced new maps of Jupiter that show the continuing changes in its famous Great Red Spot. The images also reveal a rare wave structure in the planet’s atmosphere that has not been seen for decades. This is the first in a series of annual portraits of the solar system’s outer planets which will help researchers study how they change over time.