Hubble Zooms in on the Center of M4

Hubble shows the center of globular cluster M4

Globular cluster M4 is located 7,200 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius. Credit: ESA/NASA

This new image from Hubble shows an up-close look at the center of M4 or Messier 4, a global cluster located in the constellation of Scorpius roughly 7,200 light-years away.

This sparkling picture taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the center of globular cluster M4. The power of Hubble has resolved the cluster into a multitude of glowing orbs, each a colossal nuclear furnace.

M4 is relatively close to us, lying 7,200 light-years distant, making it a prime object for study. It contains several tens of thousands of stars and is noteworthy in being home to many white dwarfs — the cores of ancient, dying stars whose outer layers have drifted away into space.

In July 2003, Hubble helped make the astounding discovery of a planet called PSR B1620-26 b, 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter, which is located in this cluster. Its age is estimated to be around 13 billion years — almost three times as old as the Solar System! It is also unusual in that it orbits a binary system of a white dwarf and a pulsar (a type of neutron star).

Amateur stargazers may like to track M4 down in the night sky. Use binoculars or a small telescope to scan the skies near the orange-red star Antares in Scorpius. M4 is bright for a globular cluster, but it won’t look anything like Hubble’s detailed image: it will appear as a fuzzy ball of light in your eyepiece.

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