The ESO features an open cluster of stars called IC 4651 (Image Credit: ESO)

A brand-new image from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) shows a darling little cluster of stars. Called IC 4651, they can be found approximately 3,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Ara.

Tucked away within the heart of our galaxy, the stars that comprise IC 4651 are believed to be around 1.7 billion years old. Not elderly by cosmological standards, but not young either. In fact, they are practically middle-aged. All were born at precisely the same time, and coalesced from the same spinning nebular cloud... so they can be considered siblings.

from the ESO:

Astronomers estimate that our galaxy boasts at least 1,000 open clusters of stars similar to this one, whereas, there are around 150 globular clusters presently known and cataloged. Both types can shed light on the evolution of our galaxy, and all of its planetary and stellar inhabitants. Additionally, they can be used to test, and sometimes modify, theoretical models dealing with the mechanics of stars. (See a larger image here)

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