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.
Peering deep into the heart of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, the Hubble Space Telescope reveals a rich tapestry of more than half a million stars. Most of the stars pictured in the image are members of the Milky Way nuclear star cluster, the densest and most massive star cluster in the galaxy. Hidden in the centre is the Milky Way’s resident supermassive black hole.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the spiral galaxy NGC 4845, located over 65 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. In 2013 researchers noticed a violent flare from the black hole at the centre of NGC 4845 as it tore up and fed off an object many times more massive than Jupiter that strayed too close and was devoured.