The colorful image of the globular star cluster Terzan 12 is an awe-inspiring example of how dust in space can influence the starlight that comes from background objects. A globular star cluster is a collection of stars, bound together by gravity, which present in a spheroidal formation.
There are around 150 ancient globular clusters surrounding the galactic center of the Milky Way, orbiting at its outskirts far above and below the pancake-flat plane. This image of Terzan 12 displays how dust in space can affect starlight from background objects, creating a beautiful image that will astound those who view it.
Located in the constellation Sagittarius, Terzan 12 is a globular cluster deep in the Milky Way that is approximately 15,000 light-years away from Earth. This distant location means that it is shrouded in gas and dust which absorb and scatter the starlight emanating from the cluster, resulting in primarily redder wavelengths reaching Earth. Additionally, these interstellar dust clouds are mottled in a way that different parts of the cluster look redder than other parts along our line of sight.
The brightest stars seen in the photo are bloated, aging giants that are thousands of times larger than our Sun and they lie between Earth and the cluster. Only a few of them may be actual members of the cluster, while the very brightest hot, blue stars are also along the line of sight and not inside the cluster.
Terzan 12 is one of 11 globular clusters discovered by the Turkish-Armenian astronomer Agop Terzan approximately a half-century ago. In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, revolutionizing the study of the Milky Way galaxy’s innermost globular clusters. With its sharp vision, Hubble has shed light on the relation between age and composition of these clusters.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA.From the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, NASA manages the telescope, while the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland carries out Hubble science operations. The STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C. The Hubble Space Telescope has provided some of the most stunning images of the universe and has offered valuable insight into the age and composition of globular clusters such as Terzan 12.