Messier 22

Messier 22 offered Hubble some interesting discoveries.


10,000 light-years

Apparent Magnitude




object type

Globular Cluster

This image shows the centre of the globular cluster Messier 22, also known as M22, as observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Globular clusters are spherical collections of densely packed stars, relics of the early years of the Universe, with ages of typically 12 to 13 billion years. This is very old considering that the Universe is only 13.8 billion years old. Messier 22 is one of about 150 globular clusters in the Milky Way and at just 10 000  light-years away it is also one of the closest to Earth. It was discovered in 1665 by Abraham Ihle, making it one of the first globulars ever to be discovered. This is not so surprising as it is one of the brightest globular clusters visible from the northern hemisphere, located in the constellation of Sagittarius, close to the Galactic Bulge — the dense mass of stars at the centre of the Milky Way. The cluster has a diameter of about 70 light-years and, when looking from Earth, appears to take up a patch of sky the size of the full Moon. Despite its relative proximity to us, the light from the stars in the cluster is not as bright as it should be as it is dimmed by dust and gas located between us and the cluster. As they are leftovers from the early Universe, globular clusters are popular study objects for astronomers. M22 in particular has fascinating additional features: six planet-sized objects that are not orbiting a star have been detected in the cluster, it seems to host two black holes, and the cluster is one of only three ever found to host a planetary nebula — a short-lived gaseous shells ejected by massive stars at the ends of their lives.
ESA/Hubble & NASA

While scanning the night sky in search of Saturn in August of 1665, the German amateur astronomer Abraham Ihle made an amazing discovery: the globular cluster M22. It was one of the first objects of its kind ever detected. Located 10,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius, the cluster’s relatively bright apparent magnitude of 5.1 makes it a popular target for today’s amateur astronomers. In ideal conditions, M22 can be seen with the naked eye. The best time to observe the cluster is during August.

Containing some of the oldest known stars, globular clusters are popular objects of study for astronomers. M22 has some additional features that are particularly fascinating: two stellar-mass black holes, and six planet-sized objects (discovered by Hubble) that are not orbiting stars. The cluster is also one of only four of its kind ever found to host a planetary nebula — a short-lived gaseous shell ejected by a star at the end of its life.

Hubble’s stunning image, created using visible and infrared observations, captured the densely packed heart of M22.

For more information about Hubble’s observations of M22, see:

locator star chart for M22
This star chart for M22 represents the view from mid-northern latitudes for the given month and time.
Image courtesy of Stellarium

Explore Hubble's Messier Catalog

The following pages contain some of Hubble’s best images of Messier objects.

Bright green, orange, and yellow tendrils intertwined within this egg shaped nebula.

Messier 1 (The Crab Nebula)

Better known as the Crab Nebula, Charles Messier originally mistook Messier 1 for Halley’s Comet, which inspired him to create…

A Hubble image of a ball of thousands of stars

Messier 2

Hubble's image of Messier 2 is comprised of visible and infrared wavelengths of light.

Hubble view of M3 - a ball of thousands of stars.

Messier 3

Messier 3 holds more than 500,000 stars.