NASA images show stellar birth in galaxys far reaches

April 17th, 2008 - 12:07 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 17 (ANI): A new image from NASAs Galaxy Evolution Explorer has shown new stars being born in the far reaches of a galaxy, in a relatively desolate region of space more than 100,000 light-years from the galaxys bustling center.

The image, a composite of ultraviolet data from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and radio data from the National Science Foundations Very Large Array in New Mexico, shows the Southern Pinwheel galaxy, also known simply as M83.

In the new view, the main spiral, or stellar, disk of M83 looks like a pink and blue pinwheel, while its outer arms appear to flap away from the galaxy like giant red streamers.

It is within these so-called extended galaxy arms that, to the surprise of astronomers, new stars are forming.

According to Frank Bigiel of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, lead investigator of the new Galaxy Evolution Explorer observations, It is absolutely stunning that we find such an enormous number of young stars up to 140,000 light-years away from the center of M83.

For comparison, the diameter of M83 is only 40,000 light-years across.

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer first spotted some of the outback stars in M83s extended arms in 2005. Remote stars were also discovered around other galaxies by the ultraviolet telescope over subsequent years.

This came as a surprise to astronomers because the outlying regions of a galaxy are assumed to be relatively barren and lack high concentrations of the ingredients needed for stars to form.

The newest Galaxy Evolution Explorer observations of M83 (colored blue and green) were taken over a longer period of time and reveal many more young clusters of stars at the farthest reaches of the galaxy.

To better understand how stars could form in such unexpected territory, Bigiel and his colleagues turned to radio observations from the Very Large Array.

When the astronomers combined the radio and Galaxy Evolution Explorer data, they were delighted to see they matched up.

The degree to which the ultraviolet emission and therefore the distribution of young stars follows the distribution of the atomic hydrogen gas out to the largest distances is absolutely remarkable, said Fabian Walter, also of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

The astronomers speculate that the young stars seen far out in M83 could have formed under conditions resembling those of the early universe, a time when space was not yet enriched with dust and heavier elements. (ANI)

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