In the late 18th century, Charles Messier was busy hunting for comets in the night sky, and noticed several “nebulous” objects. After initially mistaking them for the comets he was seeking, he began to compile a list of these objects so other astronomers would not make the same mistake. Known as the Messier Catalog, this list consists of 100 objects, consisting of distant galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters.
Among the many famous objects in this catalog is the M5 globular star cluster (aka. NGC 5904). Located in the galactic halo within the Serpens Constellation, this cluster of stars is almost as old as the Universe itself (13 billion years)! Though very distant from Earth and hard to spot, it is a favorite amongst amateur astronomers who swear by its beauty.
While this solar peak has been weaker than usual, from time to time we get a moderate punch from the Sun. Here’s an example — what NASA calls a “mid-level” solar flare blasting off the Sun at 8:16 a.m. EDT (1:16 p.m. UTC) yesterday (Aug. 26).
While the related coronal mass ejection can cause auroras high in Earth’s atmosphere and (in more severe cases) cause telecommunications disruptions, in this case the U.S. government isn’t expecting much.
“Given the location of this event, the associated coronal mass ejection is well off the Sun-Earth line and no significant geomagnetic storming is anticipated as a result,” wrote the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center in an update today.
NASA says the flare, which was captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, is an M5 flare. X-class flares are about 10 times more powerful than M-class ones.
An unrelated solar event recently caused auroras that astronauts spotted from the International Space Station.
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.