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Hubble finds stellar life and death in a globular cluster

The new image shows a planetary nebula that might be part of NGC 1846.
A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that is visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

Aging bright stars in the cluster glow in intense shades of red and blue. The majority of middle-aged stars, several billions of years old, are whitish in color. Myriad distant background galaxies of varying shapes and structure are scattered around the image.

The most intriguing object, however, doesn’t seem to belong in the cluster. It is a faint green bubble in the white box near the bottom center of the image. This so-called planetary nebula is the aftermath of the death of a star. The burned-out central star can be seen inside the bubble. It is uncertain whether the planetary nebula is a member of NGC 1846 or simply lies along the line of sight to the cluster. Measurements of the motion of the cluster stars and the planetary nebula’s central star suggest it might be a cluster member.

NGC 1846
A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that can be seen from the southern hemisphere. Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team/STScI/AURA; Acknowledgment: P. Goudfrooij, STScI
A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that is visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

Aging bright stars in the cluster glow in intense shades of red and blue. The majority of middle-aged stars, several billions of years old, are whitish in color. Myriad distant background galaxies of varying shapes and structure are scattered around the image.

The most intriguing object, however, doesn’t seem to belong in the cluster. It is a faint green bubble in the white box near the bottom center of the image. This so-called planetary nebula is the aftermath of the death of a star. The burned-out central star can be seen inside the bubble. It is uncertain whether the planetary nebula is a member of NGC 1846 or simply lies along the line of sight to the cluster. Measurements of the motion of the cluster stars and the planetary nebula’s central star suggest it might be a cluster member.

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