Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Full of Stars

The image above shows the globular star cluster known as M3. The cluster is made up of several hundred thousand stars. It is a member of our Milky Way Galaxy, located nearly 34,000 light years from our solar system.

This star cluster is located within the constellation of Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs. In 1764 the French comet hunter Charles Messier made it the third object, M3, of his now famous catalog.

M3 is thought to be about 180 light-years across, although half of the cluster's stars are located within its innermost 22 light years. M3 contains a relatively large number of "Blue Straggler" stars. These are stars that are bluer than most other stars within the cluster. They are thought to have had their outer layers stripped away by close encounters with other stars in the dense inner regions of the cluster.

This infrared image was taken by Tom Jarrett (Infrared Processing and Analysis Center / Spitzer Science Center / Caltech) using the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch Hale Telescope with its Wide-field Infrared Camera.

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