At least one snowball will be thrown throughout the holiday season thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, even if your hopes of a white Christmas are dashed this year. Hubble gathered information that was utilized to create an amazing picture of a closely packed star cluster with a cosmic snowball-like appearance. It is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a Milky Way satellite galaxy.
NGC 2210 is a globular cluster that is roughly 158,000 light-years away from Earth. Its estimated age is 11.6 billion years, which puts it in the same age range as the oldest globular clusters in the Milky Way’s halo and other globular clusters in the LMC.
This implies that NGC 2210 is really one of the youngest LMC globular clusters observed by astronomers, while being just around 2.2 billion years older than the universe overall. It was first discovered in the course of a 2017 study project, which was actually based on some of the data utilized to produce the current image.
Even older than NGC 2210 were other clusters observed during the same series of observations; four of them appeared to be over 13 billion years old, indicating that they formed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
The fact that globular clusters are strongly gravitationally bound accounts for their lifetime; they can contain anywhere from thousands to millions of stars. They become extremely stable as a result. For astronomers who want to study very old populations of stars, they make good targets.
Astronomers find it fascinating that NGC 2210 and other LMC globular clusters have ages comparable to those of Milky Way globular clusters since it indicates that the two groups developed simultaneously, despite the fact that the LMC and our galaxy were formed independently.
Despite being identified in 1835 by John Herschel, Hubble, which was launched in 1990, has not yet fully scanned this globular cluster until 2023. And, well, the picture shows that NGC 2210 is still a stunning object to see in addition to having great scientific significance.