Stars shine like diamonds in this week’s Hubble Space Telescope image showing the Terzan 9 globular cluster.
Terzan 9 is in the Sagittarius constellation and is relatively close to the center of the Milky Way. “Globular clusters are stable, tightly coupled groups of tens of thousands to millions of stars,” say Hubble scientists to explain. “As this image shows, the hearts of globular clusters are densely filled with stars. Terzan 9 is strewn with so many glittering stars that it resembles a sea of sequins or a huge treasure chest of gold.”
The center of the Milky Way, called the galactic bulge, is a region rich in stars. Most of the Milky Way, like most spiral galaxies, is in the shape of a flat wheel, but the bulge protrudes from this plane at the center. The stars that form the bulge are distinct from those that lie in the plane, as those in the center tend to be older and redder.
There is also a lot of interstellar dust in the Milky Way’s galactic bulge, making this region more difficult to study as the dust obscures the view. “This dust complicates the study of globular clusters near the center of the galaxy because it absorbs starlight and can even change the visible colors of the stars in these clusters,” the Hubble scientists explain. “Hubble’s sensitivity at both visible and infrared wavelengths allows astronomers to measure how stellar colors change due to interstellar dust. Knowing a star’s true color and magnitude allows astronomers to estimate its age, and therefore the age of the globular cluster.”
Within the galactic bulge there are not only stars. At the center of almost all galaxies like supermassive black holes that form the bulges around them. The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, was recently imaged as part of an international effort that used radio telescopes to detect the glowing gas surrounding the black hole. The region immediately around this black hole is chaotic and busy, with wisps of dust and gas, stars and even some strange stretchy bodies called G objects.
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