A brilliant new image from the Hubble Space Telescope captures a stunning view of a near-open star cluster slowly dissolving into a dwarf galaxy around it.
The photo shows the part The Small Magellanic CloudsP. galaxy Milky Way that is, 200,000 light-years from Earth and a small group slightly closer The large Magellanic cloudthe dwarf galaxy is also a neighbor. We must observe its proximity in such detail that the Hubble Space Telescope can see the relatively small cluster of stars with remarkable clarity.
The new Hubble photo, released by NASA and the European Space Agency in December 2022, shows a small portion of the Small Magellanic Ball — an open cluster designated NGC 376. An open cluster is distinguished from a globular cluster by its more open, loosely bound structure, which allows us to identify individual stars even in the closest regions its condensed But the globular clusters are so dense stars the year may be light to one another, and the light of the stars mingled in the midst of the stars.
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Although the Small Magellanic Cloud contains hundreds of thousands of stars, NGC 376 only contains about 3,400 solar massesthus of somewhat less weight than the Small Magellanic Cloud itself. Located in the southern sky in the constellation Tucana, NGC 376 was first discovered in 1826 by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop.
According to a 2011 study in Journal of Astrophysics, NGC 376 has likely lost more than 90% of its original stellar mass and is in the process of dissolving into the larger Small Magellanic Cloud. When that will happen is not clear, but the slow loss of star-forming gas and the gravitational pull from the rest of the Small Magellanic Cloud make the process inevitable.
The Hubble image was produced using data from two probes, one using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Observations (ACS) and the other using both ACS and Hubble’s Wide Field Camera III.
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