(via ESO - eso1141 - VISTA Finds New Globular Star Clusters)
The VISTA telescope is an optimized infrared telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Being IR-optimized means that it can take wide-field images through the dust and gas that normally blocks our view of the other side of the galaxy.
What it has found in a recent survey (the Via Lactea/VVV survey) is some star clusters, two globular and one open, that we could never have seen before.
The main picture is of VVV CL001, the faint globular cluster on the left half of the frame, just above and to the right of the foreground star (with diffraction spikes). The larger, brighter globular cluster on the right has been known for some time. It is UKS 1, and the two clusters may actually be gravitationally bound to each other. While it looks quite bright in this shot, it was known previously as the dimmest globular cluster, because all the dust obscured and reddened the light. However, in IR it shines very brightly.
Not sure what I mean? Here, ESO gives you a comparison of visible light (top, from the Digitized Sky Survey II) and infrared (bottom, from VISTA):
See how much “pops out” with the infrared “bypassing” the obscuring dust?
Amazing enough already, right? Well, it turns out that there are a couple more in the VISTA survey:
VVV CL002 is the closest globular cluster to the center of the galaxy:
And finally, there’s VVV CL003, an open cluster about 15,000 light-years beyond the galactic center:
Click through to the story on the ESO’s website to get the images and even some great video (zooming in on the cluster and a transition of the view from visible to infrared).