Hubble finds 'gems' in sky

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The Independent Online

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the most detailed image yet of two clusters of stars that have been likened to sparkling gems in the southern sky.

The images show the points of light that form the "open star" clusters NGC 265 and NGC 290 in a region of the universe called the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Open clusters such as these are loosely arranged and consist of relatively young stars, and were born from the same cloud of interstellar gas.

The relatively weak gravitational attraction of an open cluster means the stars will move apart over the course of a few hundred million years.

More tightly-bound "globular" clusters, meanwhile, stay together for much longer periods, perhaps many billions of years.

"Open star clusters make excellent astronomical laboratories," said a spokesman for the European Space Agency, which helps to run the Hubble telescope.

The Small Magellanic Cloud, named after the 16th- century Portuguese seafarer Ferdinand Magellan, is the smaller of two companion dwarf galaxies to the Milky Way and can be seen from the southern hemisphere. The open star clusters are about 200,000 light years away and roughly 65 light years across.

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