Well positioned in the evening sky for viewers in the northern hemisphere, Messier 2, also known as NGC 7089, is one of the largest globular clusters known, with about 150,000 stars stretching across 175 light years. Thought to be about 13 billion years old, the cluster’s eccentric orbit carries it as far as 171,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way and up to 165,000 light years above and below the galactic plane. Currently about 55,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Aquarius, M2 was discovered by the French astronomer Jean-Dominique Maraldi in 1746 and added to Charles Messier’s famous list in 1760. It is visible to the unaided eye on extraordinarily clear nights and easily resolved into a spectacular star swarm in moderate-size telescopes. As viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope, as seen here, M2 is nothing short of jaw dropping, with a dense core of close-packed stars.
The bipolar star-forming region Sharpless 2-106 some 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Twin lobes of super-hot gas, glowing blue in this image, stretch outward from the central young and massive star. This hot gas creates the “wings” of our angel.
Globular clusters offer some of the most spectacular sights in the night sky. These ornate spheres contain hundreds of thousands of stars, and reside in the outskirts of galaxies. The Milky Way contains over 150 such clusters — and the example shown in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, named NGC 362, is one of the most unusual ones.