Hubble spies a bright ‘spray’ of stars in NGC 2660


Glowing in the dark like sparks from fireworks, this brilliant group of stars is NGC 2660 in the constellation Vela, which is best seen in the skies of the southern hemisphere.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed this open cluster as part of a program to study the ages of white dwarf stars in open clusters.

An open cluster is a type of star cluster that it can contain anywhere from tens to a few hundred stars held together by gravity. The Open cluster stars form from the same region of gas and dust and therefore share many characteristics, such as age and chemical composition.

Unlike globular clusters, their denser and more compact ancient cousins, open clusters are easier to study since astronomers can more easily distinguish between individual stars. Their stars can be old or young, and they can scatter after a few million years in the spiral or irregular galaxies where they are born, reports NASA.

The spikes surrounding many of the stars in this image are “diffraction spikes”, that occur when the glow from bright points of light reflects off the support of Hubble’s secondary mirror. The bright red object on the left with very prominent diffraction spikes is a foreground star that is not part of the cluster.