Millions and Millions

Dec 2, 2008 1:55pm

This is one of those cases in which a picture is worth a thousand words — or perhaps 186, which is what I’ve written below. The picture is of Omega Centauri, a globular cluster (or perhaps dwarf galaxy) in the southern sky.  It contains perhaps ten million stars, about 17,000 light-years from Earth.  It was identified by Edmond Halley, of comet fame, in 1677.  New observations by the Hubble telescope suggest there may be a black hole at its center, 40,000 times as massive as our Sun. The image was combined from several pictures shot by the 2.2-meter diameter Max-Planck/ESO telescope, located at the La Silla observatory, high in the mountains of the Atacama Desert in Chile.  The telescope is run by the European Southern Observatory, a consortium from thirteen countries. Click HERE for more information.  And HERE for larger versions of the image.  Or click on the picture itself; it’s best enjoyed big. If you lived under clear skies in Chile, or almost anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, Omega Centauri would loom as large as the Moon in the sky, a dim, fuzzy ball of stars.  If you lived on a planet orbiting one of those millions of stars, imagine how luminous the night sky there might be.

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