Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Messier 13, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

Messier 13, also known as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, is the brightest globular cluster in the northern hemisphere. It is a little over 25,000 light years away, about 145 light years in diameter, and contains hundreds of thousands of stars. M13 is visible to the naked eye on dark, clear nights away from city lights.

Messier 13; ST80 on Vixen SP; 16x120
Spiral galaxy NGC 6207 is visible near the lower-left corner of the image. Also visible in this image (barely) is spiral galaxy IC 4617. It is located about halfway between the center of M13 and NGC 6207, next to a pair of stars.

Messier 13 was chosen as the target for the Arecibo message of 1974. The message was a single (non-repeated) transmission of binary data that, when decoded, provided various details about Earth and humankind. It was not meant to be a serious attempt at contacting extraterrestrial life, though. Instead, the message was intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the newly refurbished Arecibo radio telescope. I am sure that we can all take comfort in that fact when some alien civilization intercepts the message and sends a fleet of warships to exterminate humanity.

This image is dedicated to Jeff the (Former) Programmer. I'm gonna miss working with ya!

Addendum: Jeff isn't dead or anything. He recently resigned from where I work.

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