As dusk fades to dark on Thursday, 17 January, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the rising 10-day-old Moon less than 1 degree away from first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. Grab your binoculars to enjoy the sight of the gibbous Moon amid the Hyades open star cluster too.
Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the simple beauty of NGC 339, a 6.5-billion-year-old massive intermediate age star cluster that lies in the SMC, a dwarf galaxy some 200,000 light-years away from us. The relationship between such clusters and true globular clusters is not yet fully understood.
Astronomers using the unique ultraviolet capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have identified nine monster stars with masses over 100 times the mass of the Sun in the star cluster R136, located in the Tarantula Nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud. This makes it the largest sample of very massive stars identified to date.