• NASA shared a new photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope
  • NGC 6441 is a globular cluster filled with snowflake-like stars
  • Various cosmic objects can be spotted within NGC 6441

NASA has shared a stunning photo of a globular cluster’s stars that look like cosmic snowflakes. The photo is the latest image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency.

The subject of Hubble’s latest photo is NGC 6441. It lies about 44,000 light-years from the Sun.

NGC 6441 is a globular cluster, which means it is a spherical collection of stars that orbits the center of a galaxy. Its spherical shape sculpted by the gravitational forces in its surroundings.

Like other globular clusters, determining the exact number of stars within NGC 6441 can be challenging. According to NASA, NGC 6441 is one of the most massive clusters in the Milky Way galaxy because of its stars. The agency estimated that all the stars of NGC 6441 are over a million times more massive than the Sun.

“Like snowflakes, the exact number of stars in such a cluster is difficult to discern,” NASA explained in a statement. “It is estimated that together the stars have 1.6 million times the mass of the Sun, making NGC 6441 one of the most massive and luminous globular clusters in the Milky Way.”

Aside from the bright stellar objects, NGC 6441 is also home to various cosmic features. These include four pulsars; highly magnetized, rotating, neutron stars. These types of stars formed following the collapse and death of a giant star.

Another fascinating cosmic object hiding inside NGC 6441 is a planetary nebula known as JaFu 2. Despite its name, we do not relate a planetary nebula to an actual planet. Instead, it got its name because of its planet-like spherical shape. This shape caused by an expanding bright shell of ionized gas emitted by a red giant star as it reached the end of its life cycle.

“NGC 6441 is host to four pulsars that each complete a single rotation in a few milliseconds. Also hidden within this cluster is JaFu 2, a planetary nebula,” NASA stated. “Despite their name, planetary nebulas have little to do with planets. A phase in the evolution of intermediate-mass stars, planetary nebulas last for only a few tens of thousands of years, the blink of an eye on astronomical timescales.”

NGC 6441
Photo of a globular cluster captured by the Hubble Space Telescope ESA/Hubble & NASA, G. Piotto