(click on image to enlarge)
Hubble revolutionised the study of globular clusters, as it is almost impossible to clearly distinguish the stars in globular clusters with ground-based telescopes. The blurring caused by Earth’s atmosphere makes it impossible to tell one star from another, but from Hubble’s location in low Earth orbit the atmosphere no longer poses a problem. As a result, Hubble has been used to study what kind of stars globular clusters are made up of, how they evolve, and the role of gravity in these dense systems.
The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will further our understanding of globular clusters by peering into those globular clusters that are currently obscured by dust. Webb will predominantly observe at infrared wavelengths, which are less affected by the gas and dust surrounding newborn stars. This will allow astronomers to inspect star clusters that are freshly formed, providing insights into stellar populations before they have a chance to evolve.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Cohen
(Ed.: The description above of what the James Webb Space Telescope will do to enhance our views of globular clusters that Hubble first revolutionized is a good reminder of the advances being made in the field. Obviously, the ability to peer further back in time is the most exciting advancement brought to us by NASA and ESA.)