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.
This curious galaxy — known by the seemingly random jumble of letters and numbers 2MASX J16270254+4328340 — has been captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope dancing the crazed dance of a galactic merger. The galaxy has merged with another galaxy leaving a fine mist, made of millions of stars, spewing from it in long trails.
This scene captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows PGC 83677, a lenticular galaxy — a galaxy type that sits between the more familiar elliptical and spiral varieties in the Hubble sequence. Studies have uncovered signs of a monstrous black hole in the core of PGC 83677 that is spewing out high-energy X-rays and ultraviolet light.
Owls may be scarce near your favourite viewing spot, but the Northern Hemisphere spring sky contains one celestial owl that you can track down in small telescopes – Messier 97 (NGC 3587). Commonly called the Owl Nebula, M97 is a planetary nebula discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781 that is currently ideally placed for observation almost overhead at nightfall in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear.