Imaging a galaxy ablaze with star birth

February 27th, 2008 - 11:26 am ICT by admin  


Washington, Feb 27 (IANS) NASA astronomers have created a striking and detailed ultraviolet image of an entire galaxy “ablaze with star birth” by combining 39 individual frames, taken over 11 hours of exposure. The image shows the giant star-forming region NGC 604 as a shiny spot to the lower left of the galaxy’s nucleus.

With a diameter of 1,500 light-years, it is the largest stellar nursery in the “local group” that includes our Milky Way and Andromeda.

NASA’s Stefan Immler used the Swift satellite’s high-resolution telescope to click the images between Dec 23 and Jan 4, which he assembled into a seamless mosaic covering the entire galaxy.

The galaxy, also called M33 in the sky catalogue, is located about 2.9 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Triangulum.

Despite sharing the Milky Way’s spiral shape, M33 has only about a tenth of the mass and, at 50,000 light-years across, is just half the size of our galaxy.

“The entire galaxy is ablaze with star birth,” said Immler. “Despite M33’s small size, it has a much higher star-formation rate than either the Milky Way or Andromeda. All of this star birth lights up the galaxy in the ultraviolet.”

NASA team member Stephen Holland said Swift’s telescope helps zero in on the clusters themselves and separate out nearby stars and gas clouds.

“This will enable us to trace the star-forming history of the entire galaxy,” he said.

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