NGC 6325, a compact and radiant globular cluster, sparkles in this captivating picture captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, a joint venture of NASA and ESA. Residing approximately 26,000 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus, this densely populated gathering of stars fascinates astronomers who seek to unravel the mysteries of star formation.
Globular clusters like NGC 6325 comprise tightly-knit assemblages of stars, ranging from tens of thousands to millions in number. They can be found in various types of galaxies and serve as natural laboratories for scientists investigating the process of star evolution. The stars within globular clusters typically form around the same time and possess similar initial compositions, enabling astronomers to refine their theories about stellar development.
However, the focus of astronomers observing this particular cluster was not solely on star formation. Instead, their attention was drawn to the search for a concealed behemoth. Despite its serene appearance, NGC 6325 is suspected to harbor an intermediate-mass black hole, subtly influencing the motion of the surrounding stars. Previous studies have revealed that the arrangement of stars in certain highly concentrated globular clusters, characterized by stars being densely packed together, deviates slightly from astronomers’ expectations.
This intriguing inconsistency suggests that some of these densely populated globular clusters, including NGC 6325, may host a lurking black hole at their cores. In order to delve deeper into this hypothesis, astronomers employed the Wide Field Camera 3 of the Hubble Telescope to observe a broader selection of densely populated globular clusters, including the star-studded NGC 6325 captured in this image. Additional data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys on board Hubble was also incorporated into the creation of this stunning visual representation.