The ancient orbs of globular cluster M 4

  • NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently snapped a stunning image of the center of globular cluster M 4.



    According to NASA, the image rendered by Hubble resolved the cluster into a multitude of glowing orbs - each described as a colossal nuclear furnace.

    Interestingly, M 4 is located relatively close to Earth, lying just 7200 light-years distant. 

The cluster contains several tens of thousands stars and is noteworthy in being home to many white dwarfs - the cores of ancient, dying stars whose outer layers have drifted away into deep space.

    In July 2003, Hubble helped astronomers discover a planet known as PSR B1620-26 b - 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter - which is located in the M 4 cluster.

    

PSR B1620-26 b is estimated to be around 13 billion years in age - almost three times as old as the Solar System. The planet is also unusual in that it orbits a binary system of a white dwarf and a pulsar (a type of neutron star).

    NASA recommends that amateur stargazers attempting to track M 4  use binoculars or a small telescope to scan the skies near the orange-red star Antares in Scorpius. 

Although M 4 is bright for a globular cluster, it won’t look anything like Hubble’s detailed image, but rather, will appear as a fuzzy ball of light in an eyepiece.

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