A new snap from the Gemini Observatory shows a globular cluster at near-infrared wavelengths, taken using the GeMS tool on the Gemini South Telescope.
Called Liller 1, this globular cluster is located approximately 30,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius. Because of its distance and its close proximity to the center of the Milky Way (it sits just 3,200 light-years from Sagittarius A*: our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole), it can be a real pain to photograph and study.
But the GeMS adaptive optics system was up to the challenge; It allowed astronomers to pierce through the dusty veil surrounding Liller 1 and the central portion of our galaxy, leaving nothing but the stars inside.
Ultimately, astronomers estimate that Liller 1 contains at least 65,000 stars, with the total mass of 1.5 million Suns; all tucked within a sphere a few light-years across. When you consider the fact that the Sun is separated from its closest neighbor by 4 light-years, you can begin to understand how ‘cluttered’ this region must be—the stars are so close, they exist in one of the only environments in which stars regularly collide. More from Gemini: