Snapshots of a Galactic Jewelry Box

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New ground breaking images of the Kappa Crusis Cluster

Visible with the naked eye, ‘The Kappa Crusis Cluster’ or just simply ‘The Jewel Box’ is possibly one of the most beautiful sights across the southern skies. The nickname was given to it by English astronomer John Hershel in the 1830’s. He claimed that the vibrantly coloured blue and orange stars resembled a piece of exotic jewelry when viewed through a telescope.

Open clusters such as this are a good point for scientific study. Since the group of stars are all around the same age, being made up of the same cloud of gas and dust they help astronomers follow how stars evolve.

Recently, a new image has been taken from ESO’s La Silla observatory in Chile depicting the cluster and its surroundings in full mulitcoloured glory. Due to the gargantuan mirror and phenomenal picture quality, the picture retrieved is one of the best images of the cluster taken from earth.

cosmicjewelbox

But whilst images taken from the ground are very colourful, space images taken from the Hubble telescope capture light that’s impossible to see from the ground.

The new Hubble image depicting the core of the cluster depicts the first comprehensive far ultraviolet to nea-infrared image of an open cluster. Taken near the end of Wide Field Planetary Camera Two’s life, when retrieved, it presented images with details never seen before. Several bright, pale blue super giant stars, a solitary red super giant and other beautifully coloured stars are visible in the images.

The brighter stars in the image are around 15-20 times the mass of the sun whilst the dim stars are less than half the mass of the Sun. The ‘Jewel Box’ is around 6400 light years away and 16 million years old.