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.
NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. It lies over 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and is one of about 1500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster. But NGC 4639 also conceals a dark secret in its core — a massive black hole that is consuming the surrounding gas and known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN).
A near-record 17-billion-solar-mass black hole discovered in a sparse area of the local universe indicates that these monster objects may be more common than once thought. The newly discovered supermassive black hole is in NGC 1600, an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Eridanus some 149 million light-years away.
An international team of scientists has detected and confirmed the faintest early-universe galaxy ever using the ten-metre Keck II telescope on the summit on Maunakea, Hawaii. The team analysed three separate images of the object gravitationally lensed by a foreground galaxy cluster, revealing the distant galaxy as it was 13 billion years ago.