Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's Official: We cannot possibly be alone.

The European Southern Observatory has just announced they have discovered a previously unknown globular cluster orbiting the Milky Way. Take a look at this mother!!




While this image is not in visible light, this is the most common way 21st Century, and for the most part of last century astronomers would find globular clusters. Located 30,000 light-years away, this previously unknown closely-packed group of about 100,000 stars is most likely a new globular cluster.

In our own Galaxy about 150 globular clusters are known, each containing many hundreds of thousands of stars. In contrast to their smaller and less regularly shaped siblings - open clusters - globular clusters are not concentrated in the galactic disc; rather they are spherically distributed in the galactic halo, with increasing concentration towards the centre of the Galaxy.

Star clusters provide us with unique laboratory conditions to investigate various aspects of astrophysics. They represent groups of stars with similar ages, chemical element abundances and distances. Globular clusters, in particular, are fossils in the Milky Way that provide useful information. With ages of about 10 billion years, they are among the oldest objects in our Galaxy - almost as old as the Universe itself. These massive, spherical shaped star clusters are therefore witnesses of the early, mysterious ages of the Universe.

If you're still saying 'we're the only ones', go further down and read Carl Sagan's 'Mote of Dust' passage.

1 comment:

Louie said...

Although Carl also says that somebody has to be first!

But I agree, there are probably other intelligent species somewhere - probably looking at porn (in my opinion!)...