Hubble Focuses on Globular Cluster NGC 1841

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This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the globular cluster NGC 1841, which is found within the Large Magellanic Cloud.

This Hubble image shows NGC 1841, a globular cluster some 162,000 light-years away in the constellation of Mensa. The color image includes ultraviolet, optical and near-infrared observations from both Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Three filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / A. Sarajedini / F. Niederhofer.

NGC 1841 is located approximately 162,000 light-years away in the constellation of Mensa.

The cluster was discovered by the English astronomer John Herschel on January 19, 1836.

Otherwise known as ESO 4-15, it is part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy.

“Satellite galaxies are galaxies that are bound by gravity in orbits around a more massive host galaxy,” the Hubble astronomers said in a statement.

“We typically think of our Galaxy’s nearest galactic companion as being the Andromeda galaxy, but it would be more accurate to say that Andromeda is the nearest galaxy that is not in orbit around the Milky Way.”

“In fact, our Galaxy is orbited by tens of known satellite galaxies that are far closer than Andromeda, the largest and brightest of which is the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is easily visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere.”

Globular clusters, such as NGC 1841, are systems of very ancient stars gravitationally bound into a single structure about 100-200 light-years across.

These objects contain hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million stars. The large mass in the rich stellar center of a cluster pulls the stars inward to form a ball of stars.

They are among the oldest known objects in the Universe and are relics of the first epochs of galaxy formation.

It is thought that every galaxy has a population of globular clusters; our Milky Way Galaxy hosts at least 150 such objects.

“The Large Magellanic Cloud is home to many globular clusters,” the astronomers said.

“These celestial bodies fall somewhere between open clusters — which are much less dense and tightly bound — and small, compact galaxies.”

“Increasingly sophisticated observations have revealed the stellar populations and other characteristics of globular clusters to be varied and complex, and it is not well understood how these tightly-packed clusters form.”

“However, there are certain consistencies across all globular clusters: they are very stable and so are capable of lasting a long time, and can therefore be very old.”

“This means that globular clusters often contain large numbers of very old stars, which make them something akin to celestial ‘fossils’.”

“Just as fossils provide insight into the early development of life on Earth, globular clusters such as NGC 1841 can provide insights into very early star formation in galaxies.”

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