Hubble Space Telescope: European Space Agency shares image of sparkling globular cluster Terzan 4

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This image of the Terzan 4 globular cluster was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and shows an abundance of brilliant stars. Millions and millions of stars can be found in a globular cluster, a group of stars held together by their mutual gravitational pull. Terzan 4 is a globular star cluster, and as this photo shows, its cores are loaded with stars that make for stunning photos.

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The study of globular clusters had progressed greatly with the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. While ground-based telescopes have a hard time distinguishing individual stars in these dense clusters, space telescopes have little trouble doing so. Hubble’s keen eyesight has enabled astronomers to study the stellar components of globular clusters and the evolution of such systems over time.

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This finding comes from Hubble observations of globular clusters like Terzan 4 and others around the galactic center, which have helped astronomers compile information about the size, age and composition of these objects. Because of the clouds of gas and dust swirling around the galactic center, these globular clusters have been hidden from close study for much longer than globular clusters in other parts of the sky. These clouds cause a phenomenon known as extinction, which obscures stars and complicates astronomical studies.

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The astronomers were able to overcome the effects of extinction on Terzan 4 by using the sensitivity of two of Hubble’s sensors, the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3. The ages of galactic globular clusters were calculated to within a billion years using a combination of Hubble imaging and advanced data processing, which is a pretty exact measurement in astronomical terms.