Sunday, April 22, 2012

A galaxy blooming with new stars

A galaxy blooming with new stars (12/15/11)

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) has captured the beauty of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253. The new portrait is probably the most detailed wide-field view of this object and its surroundings ever taken. It demonstrates that the VST, the newest telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, provides broad views of the sky while also offering impressive image sharpness.

NGC 253 gleams about eleven and a half million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor. It is often just called the Sculptor Galaxy, although other descriptive names include the Silver Coin or Silver Dollar Galaxy. It is easy to get a good look at NGC 253 through binoculars as it is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky after the Milky Way's closest, big galactic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy.

Astronomers have noted the widespread active star formation in NGC 253 and labelled it a "starburst" galaxy. The many bright clumps dotting the galaxy are stellar nurseries where hot young stars have just ignited. The radiation streaming from these giant blue-white babies makes the surrounding hydrogen gas clouds glow brightly (green in this image).




NGC 253 – click for 1280×1012 image


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