Seen a cluster of stars twinkling and glittering like diamonds in the night? What you may not know is that those stars are actually part of a larger globular cluster, a celestial phenomenon that scientists are only just beginning to understand. One of the most impressive globular clusters out there is NGC 6652, a star-studded sphere of brilliant luminosity that sparkles in the night sky.
This image of NGC 6652 was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, combining data from two of Hubble’s most powerful cameras: the Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3. As you can see, this cluster is truly stunning, a kaleidoscope of stars and dust illuminated by a pale blue light. Not only is it beautiful to look at, it also contains crucial information about our own Milky Way galaxy.
Globular clusters are stable groups of stars that are held together by intense gravitational forces. Because of this, they have a spherical shape — giving them their name — and can contain anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of individual stars. NGC 6652 is no exception, with its impressive 30,000 light-year radius containing a wealth of cosmic knowledge.
Two different teams of astronomers used this cluster to uncover information about our galaxy. The first team surveyed the nearby globular clusters in order to gain insight into their age and how they interact with the gravitational potential of the Milky Way. The second team used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to measure the quantities of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen found within NGC 6652.
In addition to these scientific studies, there is something else special about NGC 6652 — its sheer beauty. When looking up at the night sky, it can be easy to forget just how awe-inspiring and majestic outer space truly is. But this image reminds us that even in the darkness of night, there are still wonders waiting to be discovered.