Hubble captures dazzling star cluster that may soon disperse

Numerous stars in the cluster are not tightly connected.

In a recent photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope, hundreds of stars glitter against the black background of space.

NGC 2660, a dazzling cluster of stars, is situated 8,617 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Vela. According to a NASA statement, NGC 2660 is categorized as an open star cluster, a form of stellar cluster that can include anywhere from tens to a few hundred stars loosely held together by gravity .

According to NASA officials, "the stars in open clusters emerge out of the same area of gas and dust and hence share many properties, such as age and chemical makeup." Open clusters are simpler to examine because astronomers can more readily discern between individual stars than their older, thicker, and more densely packed cousins, globular clusters.

An open cluster's stars might be a few tens of millions of years old or hundreds of millions of years old. The stars may scatter after a few million years into the surrounding spiral or irregular galaxies in which they were created since the clusters are only weakly connected by gravity.

On Nov. 29, 2022, NASA released a new Hubble image that shows hundreds of stars dispersed around the constellation, which is best seen in the southern sky. A foreground star that is not a member of the open star cluster is the brilliant red object in the image's upper left corner.

As part of a project to determine the age of white dwarf stars in open clusters, Hubble studied NGC 2660. Diffraction spikes surround the stars in the image, which appear when the stars' brilliant light bounces off the secondary mirror support of the space telescope.