Hubble’s New High-Res Star Cluster Photo is Your Next Desktop Background

NGC 6544

A newly released photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope shows off a spectacular cluster teeming with bright, glittering stars that is available in greater than 4K resolution.

The 19-megapixel photo is large for a Hubble image, as the satellite doesn’t typically produce as high resolution images as its new partner the James Webb Space Telescope regularly has. While Webb’s images have significantly more detail and resolution, there is something to be said about the appearance of Hubble’s diffraction spikes that makes the photos captured by the legendary telescope alluring.

This image, available to download in as high as a 108-megabyte TIFF file from the European Space Agency (ESA), is of globular cluster NGC 6544, a tightly-bound cluster of stars that exists more than 8,000 light years away from earth and is densely populated with tens of thousands of stars.

The photo combines data from two of Hubble’s imaging systems, the Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3, as well as two separate astronomical observations.

“The first observation was designed to find a visible counterpart to the radio pulsar discovered in NGC 6544. A pulsar is the rapidly spinning remnant of a dead star, emitting twin beams of electromagnetic radiation like a vast astronomical lighthouse. This pulsar rotates particularly quickly, and astronomers turned to Hubble to help determine how this object evolved in NGC 6544,” the ESA explains.

“The second observation which contributed data to this image was also designed to find the visible counterparts of objects detected at other electromagnetic wavelengths. Instead of matching up sources to a pulsar, however, astronomers used Hubble to search for the counterparts of faint X-ray sources. Their observations could help explain how clusters like NGC 6544 change over time.”

NGC 6544 exists in the constellation Sagittarius, which is close to what the ESA characterizes as a vast nebula known as the Lagoon Nebula.

“The Lagoon Nebula is truly colossal — even by astronomical standards — and measures 55 light-years across and 20 light-years from top to bottom. Previous Hubble images of the nebula incorporated infrared observations to reveal young stars and intricate structures that would be obscured at visible wavelengths by clouds of gas and dust.”

While scientists can revel in the details provided by observations from Hubble and Webb, fans of space will no doubt be pleased with the results as well, especially when they are available to download in high resolution like this image of NGC 6544 is.

Image credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Lewin, F. R. Ferraro