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.
An astronomer from Liverpool John Moores University has discovered a new family of stars in the core of the Milky Way which provides new insights into the early stages of the galaxy’s formation. The discovery has shed new light on the origins of globular clusters formed at the beginning of the Milky Way’s history.
The Hubble Space Telescope captures a snapshot of a collision between two galaxies 350 million light years away in the constellation Cetus, giving astronomers a ringside seat to a slow-motion merger that eventually will result in a single combined galaxy. Gravitational interactions are distorting the barred spirals, ripping away stars and dust.