Photograph By ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2
By Andrew Fazekas
The Hubble Space Telescope’s recent images of giant balls of stars in a nearby galaxy, reported on Thursday, have astronomers puzzled as to the star balls’ origins.
Multitudes of such “globular” star clusters, each filled with hundreds of thousands of the oldest stars in the universe, lie scattered around our own Milky Way and other galaxies. But how and why they’re born has long been a mystery.
Based on observations of our home galaxy, astronomers thought that globulars must form in galactic regions that are awash in elderly stars. But Hubble’s observations of the Fornax dwarf galaxy, a small satellite of the Milky Way some 460,000 light-years from Earth, have upended that idea. A paper in the Astrophysical Journal on the Fornax galaxy shows that it’s home to four globular clusters—yet there aren’t many old stars in its host galaxy.
“Our leading formation theory just can’t be right,” said astronomer Frank Grundahl of Aarhus University in Denmark, a coauthor of the new paper, in a press statement.
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