Climbing the cosmic distance ladder

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals an ancient, glimmering ball of stars called NGC 1466. It is a globular cluster — a gathering of stars all held together by gravity — that is slowly moving through space on the outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our closest galactic neighbours.

NGC 1466 certainly is one for extremes. It has a mass equivalent to roughly 140 000 Suns and an age of around 13.1 billion years, making it almost as old as the Universe itself. This fossil-like relic from the early Universe lies some 160 000 light-years away from us.

Nestled within this ancient time capsule are 49 known RR Lyrae variable stars, which are indispensable tools for measuring distances in the Universe. These variable stars have well-defined luminosities, meaning that astronomers know the total amount of energy they emit. By comparing this known luminosity to how bright the stars appear in the sky, their distance can be easily calculated. Astronomical objects such as this are known as standard candles, and are fundamental to the so-called cosmic distance ladder.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble & NASA

About the Image

Id:potw1852a
Type:Observation
Release date:24 December 2018, 06:00
Size:3191 x 3161 px

About the Object

Name:NGC 1466
Type:Milky Way : Star : Grouping : Cluster : Globular
Distance:150000 light years
Constellation:Hydrus
Category:Star Clusters

Image Formats

Large JPEG
5.0 MB
Screensize JPEG
591.1 KB

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1024x768
553.0 KB
1280x1024
901.6 KB
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1.3 MB
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1.5 MB
2048x1536
2.0 MB

Coordinates

Position (RA):3 44 32.99
Position (Dec):-71° 40' 15.92"
Field of view:2.66 x 2.64 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 104.9° left of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Optical
u
336 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFC3
Optical
V
606 nm Hubble Space Telescope
ACS
Optical
I
814 nm Hubble Space Telescope
ACS

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