Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2002 April 16
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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Millions of Stars in Omega Centauri
Credit & Copyight: Loke Kun Tan (StarryScapes)

Explanation: Pictured above is the largest ball of stars in our Galaxy. About 10 million stars orbit the center of this globular cluster - named Omega Centauri - as this giant globular cluster orbits our Galactic center. Recent evidence indicates that Omega Centauri is by far the most massive of the about 150 known globular clusters in the Milky Way. Omega Centauri, cataloged as NGC 5139, spans about 150 light years across, lies about 15,000 light years away, and can be seen without visual aid toward the constellation of Centaurus. The stars in globular clusters are generally older, redder and less massive than our Sun. Studying globular clusters tells us not only about the history of our Galaxy but also limits the age of the universe.

Tomorrow's picture: The Glory

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.