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Globular cluster

A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite.

Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.

Globular clusters, which are found in the halo of a galaxy, contain considerably more stars and are much older than the less dense galactic, or open clusters, which are found in the disk.

A globular cluster is sometimes known more simply as a globular; the word is derived from the Latin globulus (a small sphere).

Globular clusters are fairly common; there are about 150 currently known globular clusters in the Milky Way, with perhaps 10–20 more undiscovered.

Large galaxies can have more: Andromeda, for instance, may have as many as 500.

Some giant elliptical galaxies, such as M87, may have as many as 10,000 globular clusters.

These globular clusters orbit the galaxy out to large radii, 40 kiloparsecs (approximately 131 thousand light years) or more.

Every galaxy of sufficient mass in the Local Group has an associated group of globular clusters, and almost every large galaxy surveyed has been found to possess a system of globular clusters.

The Sagittarius Dwarf and Canis Major Dwarf galaxies appear to be in the process of donating their associated globular clusters (such as Palomar 12) to the Milky Way.

This demonstrates how many of this galaxy's globular clusters were acquired in the past.

Although it appears that globular clusters contain some of the first stars to be produced in the galaxy, their origins and their role in galactic evolution are still unclear.

It does appear clear that globular clusters are significantly different from dwarf elliptical galaxies and were formed as part of the star formation of the parent galaxy rather than as a separate galaxy.

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Globular cluster", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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February 25, 2017

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updated 12:56 pm ET