Sunday, March 30, 2008

M-2 through 6: The Clusters

These pretty things are star clusters. I put them in order, just in case anyone should ever want to go outside and try to see one. You can look them up on wikipedia to find out which constellation to look in. Or just post here and I'll look them up for you. The first four (M-2, M-3, M-4, and M-5) are called Globular Clusters. That's just a fancy way of saying that they large dense groups of stars which orbit the core of a galaxy.

This first picture of M-2 doesn't look like much. But it's got 150,000 stars in it. The light from there takes 36,000 years to get here. And of course the light from here takes the same amount of time to get there. So if someone there is looking at Earth, they'd be seeing Cro-magnon men. But they'd better have a darn good telescope.

This one is M-3. It has half a million stars in it. I know. I counted them last Saturday. It took up the whole afternoon.

M4 looks like a fuzzy ball of light in even a small telescope, and in bigger ones you can see that it's made of stars. It was the first globular cluster that they were able to see individual stars in, and now they've even managed to find a planet in it.

This one is M-5. (How did you guess?) It's one of the biggest and oldest of the globular clusters. It's 13 billion years old, which is about three times as old as the Earth. And before anyone gets all over me for religious reasons, let us not forget... In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth had no form.
M-6 is a galactic, or open cluster. Open clusters are made from only a few thousand stars that were all formed at the same time. It's about 2,000 light-years from Earth, so this is what it was like when Jesus was walking the Earth. It's mostly made of blue and white stars with the brightest being a yellow or orange giant. Some people call it the Butterfly Cluster, but it doen't look like a butterfly to me. Maybe the guy who first discovered it had a little girl with him.

Well, it's too cloudy to see the stars tonight, but not too cloudy to do the dishes. So I'm off to work on the other Messier stuff. Good night.


Tara said...

you know this stuff? I'm impressed I love star gazing but, I have no idea what I'm looking at, lol. Perhaps someday when the house is clean and the kids sleep.....

I love your pictures, you have gorgeous children!

Karen said...

I know some of this... mostly through listening to Scott, who teaches Physics and Astronomy. I've always liked looking at the stars so I'm trying to learn more.

And thanks for the compliment. Your children are beautiful, too!

georgie said...

those are just awesome pics-now i am gonna find the hubble website-you are so knowledgeable-I enjoy reading your blog