The Toucan and the cluster

The US space agency NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured stunning image of the second brightest globular cluster in the night sky located in the southern constellation of Tucana. The cosmic beauty shows star cluster named NGC 229 located within the Small Magellanic Cloud just under 200,000 light-years away.

Open clusters such as this are collections of stars weakly bound by the shackles of gravity, all of which formed from the same massive molecular cloud of gas and dust. Because of this, all the stars have the same age and composition, but vary in their mass because they formed at different positions within the cloud.

This unique property not only ensures a spectacular sight when viewed through a sophisticated instrument attached to a telescope such as Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, but gives astronomers a cosmic laboratory in which to study the formation and evolution of stars — a process that is thought to depend strongly on a star’s mass.

Hubble Space Telescope is a joint venture of NASA and ESA. The telescope was launched in 1990 and since then it is the largest telescope in space. HST has helped scientists in exploring the deepest corners of the universe and has beamed back millions of stunning shots in its entire career. However, HST will be replaced by the James Webb Telescope in 2018 as it has thrice larger lens when compared to HST.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.