Hubble Captures Ancient Beauty: M5

Article written: 3 May , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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This is just plain pretty. You’re looking at some of the oldest stars in the Universe. This new Hubble image of the globular cluster Messier 5 shows this giant huddle of stars, which is one of the oldest clusters in the Milky Way. Astronomers say the majority of M5’s stars formed more than 12 billion years ago. But there are some new and blue stars among the mix, adding some vitality and color to this ancient bunch.

Stars in globular clusters form in the same stellar nursery and grow old together. The most massive stars age quickly, exhausting their fuel supply in less than a million years, and end their lives in spectacular supernovae explosions. This process should have left the ancient cluster Messier 5 with only old, low-mass stars, which, as they have aged and cooled, have become red giants, while the oldest stars have evolved even further into blue horizontal branch stars.

Yet astronomers have spotted many young, blue stars in this cluster, hiding among the much more luminous ancient stars. Astronomers think that these laggard youngsters, called blue stragglers, were created either by stellar collisions or by the transfer of mass between binary stars. Such events are easy to imagine in densely populated globular clusters, in which up to a few million stars are tightly packed together.

Messier 5 lies at a distance of about 25 000 light-years in the constellation of Serpens (The Snake). This image was taken with Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Source: ESA’s Hubble website.

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