This new infrared image from ESO's VISTA telescope shows the globular cluster 47 Tucanae in striking detail. This cluster contains millions of stars, and there are many nestled at its core that are exotic and display unusual properties. Studying objects within clusters like 47 Tucanae may help us to understand how these oddballs form and interact. This image is very sharp and deep due to the size, sensitivity, and location of VISTA, which is sited at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile.
Globular clusters are vast, spherical clouds of old stars bound together by gravity. They are found circling the cores of galaxies, as satellites orbit the Earth. These star clumps contain very little dust and gas — it is thought that most of it has been either blown from the cluster by winds and explosions from the stars within, or stripped away by interstellar gas interacting with the cluster. Any remaining material coalesced to form stars billions of years ago.
These globular clusters spark a considerable amount of interest for astronomers — 47 Tucanae, otherwise known as NGC 104, is a huge, ancient globular cluster about 15 000 light-years away from us, and is known to contain many bizarre and interesting stars and systems.
Located in the southern constellation of Tucana (The Toucan), 47 Tucanae orbits our Milky Way. At about 120 light-years across it is so large that, despite its distance, it looks about as big as the full Moon. Hosting millions of stars, it is one of the brightest and most massive globular clusters known and is visible to the naked eye. In amongst the swirling mass of stars at its heart lie many intriguing systems, including X-ray sources, variable stars, vampire stars, unexpectedly bright "normal" stars known as blue stragglers (eso1243), and tiny objects known as millisecond pulsars, small dead stars that rotate astonishingly quickly.
Red giants, stars that have exhausted the fuel in their cores and swollen in size, are scattered across this VISTA image and are easy to pick out, glowing a deep amber against the bright white-yellow background stars. The densely packed core is contrasted against the more sparse outer regions of the cluster, and in the background huge numbers of stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud are visible.
This image was taken using ESO's VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) as part of a survey of the region of the Magellanic Clouds, two of the closest known galaxies to us. 47 Tucanae, although much closer than the Clouds, by chance lies in the the foreground of the Small Magellanic Cloud (eso1008), and was snapped during the survey.
VISTA is the world's largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky. Located at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile, this infrared telescope, with its large mirror, wide field of view and sensitive detectors, is revealing a new view of the southern sky. Using a combination of sharp infrared images — such as the VISTA image above — and visible-light observations allows astronomers to probe the contents and history of objects like 47 Tucanae in great detail.
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Earlier this week, NASA awarded two contracts for new spaceships to commercial companies. Here's how they compare.
Psychedelic pictures of 30 galactic collisions show for the first time that merging galaxies often spawn disc-shaped offspring like our Milky Way
India's first mission to Mars will attempt to put a spacecraft in orbit around the red planet next week, in a crucial test of a low-cost project carrying the country's hopes to join the leaders of a global space race.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space company will develop a powerful new rocket engine in partnership with United Launch Alliance
After a journey of 442 million miles, unmanned spacecraft is closing in on Martian orbit
Late last week, an errant, high-energy particle struck part of the Dawn spacecraft‘s electrical system, disabling the NASA …
Is it possible to have a green thumb on the Red Planet? Perhaps, after you’ve mastered a few space gardening tricks
Delays in the launch of the first space flights by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic from a base in New Mexico have drawn criticism from a county commissioner in the south of the state.
The U.S. Air Force plans to request initial funding for three surveillance satellites to track objects in space as part of its fiscal 2016 budget request, a top Air Force general said Tuesday.
By 2017, the two American companies are expected to take over a job that NASA has relied upon Russia to perform: shuttling astronauts to the International Space Station.