Friday, 22 June 2018

M80 - Out of the shadow

M80 is a globular that's sadly neglected because of the vicinity of predominant M4, which seems so much bigger and brighter. Yet, it's about time that we change all that because M80's a true marvel to behold. 

Actually, M4 only seems much more impressive because hovering at only 7,200 light-years away it's one of the closest globular clusters to our Solar System. In reality, M80's nearly fifty percent bigger and brighter and it still is an impressive sight, even from its more than 32,000 light-years' distance. Containing several hundreds of thousands of stars in a sphere not even one hundred light-years across, it's one of the most densely populated clusters. Yet I had absolutely no problem resolving it completely and I noticed a myriad of lovely star chains and structures. It also appeared even more bluish than most of its kin. I can only speculate that, due to its density, star atmospheres get blown away even more easily through interaction with other stars, exposing the hot, white-blue interior of the otherwise very old stars. As you may recall, globular clusters are among the oldest entities in the universe, often older than the galaxy they accompany. Another explanation is that this particular cluster contains an exceptionally high number of so-called "blue stragglers", very young stars that have been captured by the cluster. 

So next time you point your telescopes at Scorpio, please don't forget this little jewel.


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