Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

September 17, 1999

M3: Half A Million Stars
Credit: Barbara Mochejska (Warsaw University), Andrew Szentgyorgyi (CfA), FLWO

Explanation: This immense ball of half a million stars older than the sun lies 30,000 light-years above the plane of our Galaxy. Cataloged as M3 (and NGC 5272), it is one of about 250 globular star clusters which roam our galactic halo. Individual stars are difficult to distinguished in the densely packed core but colors are apparent for the bright stars on the cluster's outskirts. M3's cool "red" giant stars take on a yellowish cast in this lovely composite image while the blue stars tend to be hotter giants and pulsating variable stars.

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