When you look at some of these stars, you are looking toward the beginning of time itself. At 13 billion years old, Messier 5 is staggeringly ancient, dating back close to the beginning of the Universe. Messier 5 is a globular cluster consisting of hundreds of thousands of stars bound together by their collective gravity.
This is no normal globular cluster though. At only 25K light years away, it is also one of the biggest clusters known. Incredibly, we can hold wonders like Messier 5 in the palm of our hand thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Messier 5 also presents a puzzle for astronomers. Stars in globular clusters grow old and young together. So Messier 5 should, by now, consist of old, low-mass red giants and other ancient stars. But it is actually teeming with young blue stars known as blue stragglers. These incongruous stars spring to life when stars collide, or rip material from one another.
Our Hubble Space Telescope captured this stunning image of what looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel. This picture shows a bipolar star-forming region, called Sharpless 2-106.
4. Cosmic Holiday Ornament
This festive-looking nearby planetary nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined. This cosmic decoration was spotted by our Hubble Space Telescope.
5. Holiday Lights on the Sun
Even the sun gets festive with it’s festive looking solar flares. This significant flare was seen by our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SOHO) on Dec. 19, 2014. Even though solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation, it cannot pas through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. That said, when intense enough, the radiation can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
The universe is expanding even faster than expected
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the universe is expanding 5 percent to 9 percent faster than expected.
“This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don’t emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation,” said study leader and Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland.
The results will appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
Fossilized relic discovered by Hubble is a bridge to the Milky Way’s past
“Globular clusters contain stars numbering from tens-of-thousands to tens-of-millions, all within a few hundred light years. Most globulars formed when the Universe was young, with stars over 12 or even 13 billion years old. The Milky Way alone contains around 200 globulars, including Terzan 5. Unlike most globulars, Terzan 5 contains two different populations of stars.”
From 19,000 light years away, Terzan 5 looks a lot like pretty much any globular cluster you’d expect to find: it’s massive, concentrated, with a huge number of stars at right around 12 billion years of age. But mixed in there is a second population of stars just 4.5 billion years old, and tremendously represented in number as well. We’ve never seen a globular like this before, which would have required about 100 million solar masses in gas to remain after the initial burst of formation. But Terzan 5 is an amazing find for containing stars similar to the ones found in the galactic bulge. Is it possible or even probable that this fossilized relic is a survivor of the starbursts that formed the stars in the galactic center, and that it survived them twice?