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“Reddening” Clusters and Constellations: Hubble Captures Densely Packed Sparkling Starfield Near the Center of the Milky Way

Hubble Space Telescope image of a sparkling starfield that contains the globular cluster ESO 520-21 (also known as Palomar 6). Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, R. Cohen

This sparkling starfield, captured by the NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It’s vision is “To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.””>NASA/ESA Hubble Space TelescopeThe Hubble Space Telescope (often referred to as Hubble or HST) is one of NASA’s Great Observatories and was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes in use and features a 2.4-meter mirror and four main instruments that observe in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.”>Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, contains the globular cluster ESOCreated in 1962, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), is a 16-nation intergovernmental research organization for ground-based astronomy. Its formal name is the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere.”>ESO 520-21 (also known as Palomar 6). A densely packed, roughly spherical collection of stars, it lies close to the center of the Milky WayThe Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Earth, and is named for its appearance from Earth. It is a barred spiral galaxy that contains an estimated 100-400 billion stars and has a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years.”>Milky Way, where interstellar gas and dust absorb starlight and make observations more challenging. 

This absorption by interstellar material affects some wavelengths of light more than others, changing the colors of astronomical objects and causing them to appear redder than they actually are. Astronomers call this process “reddening,” and it makes determining the properties of globular clusters close to the galactic center — such as ESO 520-21 — particularly difficult.

ESO 520-21 lies in the constellation Ophiuchus, near the celestial equator. Ophiuchus was one of the 48 constellations which appeared in the writings of the second-century Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy, all of which are among the 88 constellations officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union today. Not all the constellations proposed by astronomers throughout history have survived, however — forgotten or obsolete constellations include Felis (the Cat), Rangifer (the Reindeer), and even Officina Typographica (the Printer’s Workshop).

Source: SciTechDaily