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Firestorm of Star Birth in the Active Galaxy Centaurus A

Resembling looming rain clouds on a stormy day, dark lanes of dust crisscross the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A.

Hubble's panchromatic vision, stretching from ultraviolet through near-infrared wavelengths, reveals the vibrant glow of young, blue star clusters and a glimpse into regions normally obscured by the dust.

The warped shape of Centaurus A's disk of gas and dust is evidence for a past collision and merger with another galaxy. The resulting shockwaves cause hydrogen gas clouds to compress, triggering a firestorm of new star formation. These are visible in the red patches in this Hubble close-up.

At a distance of just over 11 million light-years, Centaurus A contains the closest active galactic nucleus to Earth. The center is home for a supermassive black hole that ejects jets of high-speed gas into space, but neither the supermassive or the jets are visible in this image.

This image was taken in July 2010 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
Acknowledgment: R. O'Connell (University of Virginia) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee

For images and more information, visit:
For additional information, contact:
Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
Oli Usher
Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
Keith Noll
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
Robert O'Connell
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

Ray Villard | Newswise Science News
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