Hubble Reveals Star Cluster’s Curious Insides

BY Jenny Marder  November 12, 2012 at 8:13 AM EST

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offers this view of the center of globular cluster NGC 6362. Image by ESA/Hubble & NASA.

Update: 1:40 p.m. ET | The Hubble Space Telescope has captured this dazzling image of a far flung star cluster, located 25,000 light years away in the constellation Ara. Star clusters, or globular clusters, contain highly concentrated ancient stars, which are often about 10 billion years old and bound tightly together by gravity. But recent studies have found that much younger stars also exist in these clusters. These are bluer and brighter than other stars, and they’re known as blue stragglers.

This star cluster is called NGC 6362, and it contains many blue stragglers.

The most likely explanation, according to NASA, is that such stragglers are “either the result of stellar collisions or transfer of material between stars in binary systems.” This is because they’re usually found in the star cluster’s core, where the stars are highly concentrated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the average age of the stars that make up star clusters. They are about 10 billion years old.