Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Galaxy On Fire! Spitzer Reveals Stellar Smoke

17.03.2006


Smokin’ Hot Galaxy - This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows a galaxy that appears to be sizzling hot, with huge plumes of smoke swirling around it. The galaxy, known as Messier 82 or the "Cigar galaxy," is in fact, smothered in smoky dust particles (red) blown out into space by the galaxy’s hot stars (blue).


Where there’s smoke, there’s fire ­ even in outer space. A new infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows a burning hot galaxy whose fiery stars appear to be blowing out giant billows of smoky dust.

The galaxy, called Messier 82 or the "Cigar" galaxy, was previously known to host a hotbed of young, massive stars. The new Spitzer image reveals, for the first time, the "smoke" surrounding those stellar fires.

"We’ve never seen anything like this," said Dr. Charles Engelbracht of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "This unusual galaxy has ejected an enormous amount of dust to surround itself with a cloud brighter than any we’ve seen around other galaxies."



The false-colored view (see http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media) shows Messier 82, an irregular-shaped galaxy positioned on its side, as a diffuse bar of blue light. Fanning out from its top and bottom like the wings of a butterfly are huge red clouds of dust believed to contain a compound similar to car exhaust.

The smelly material, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, can be found on Earth in tailpipes, barbecue pits and other places where combustion reactions have occurred. In galaxies, the stuff is created by stars, whose winds and radiation blow the material out into space.

"Usually you see smoke before a fire, but we knew about the fire in this galaxy before Spitzer’s infrared eyes saw the smoke," said Dr. David Leisawitz, Spitzer program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

These hazy clouds are some of the biggest ever seen around a galaxy. They stretch out 20,000 light-years away from the galactic plane in both directions, far beyond where stars are found.

Previous observations of Messier 82 had revealed two cone-shaped clouds of very hot gas projecting outward below and above the center of galaxy. Spitzer’s sensitive infrared vision allowed astronomers to see the galaxy’s dust.

"Spitzer showed us a dust halo all around this galaxy," said Engelbracht. "We still don’t understand why the dust is all over the place and not cone-shaped."

Cone-shaped clouds of dust around this galaxy would have indicated that its central, massive stars had sprayed the dust into space. Instead, Engelbracht and his team believe stars throughout the galaxy are sending off the "smoke signals."

Messier 82 is located about 12 million light-years away in the Ursa Major constellation. It is undergoing a renaissance of star birth in its middle age, with the most intense bursts of star formation taking place at its core. The galaxy’s interaction with its neighbor, a larger galaxy called Messier 81, is the cause of all the stellar ruckus. Our own Milky Way galaxy is a less fiery place, with dust confined to the galactic plane.

The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Other authors who contributed significantly to this work are Praveen Kundurthy and Dr. Karl Gordon, both of the University of Arizona. The image was taken as a part of the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxy Survey, which is led by Dr. Robert Kennicutt , also of the University of Arizona.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. JPL is a division of Caltech.

Visible-light pictures of Messier 82 show a bar of light against a dark patch of space. Longer exposures of the galaxy have revealed cone-shaped clouds of hot gas above and below the galaxy’s plane. It took Spitzer’s three sensitive instruments to show that the galaxy is also surrounded by a huge, hidden halo of dust.

Of those instruments, Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph told astronomers that the dust contains a carbon-containing compound, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. This smoky molecule can be found on Earth in tailpipes, barbecue pits and other places where combustion reactions have occurred.

Messier 82 is located about 12 million light-years away in the Ursa Major constellation. It is viewed from its side, or edge on, so it appears as a thin cigar-shaped bar. The galaxy is termed a starburst because its shrouded core is a fiery hotbed of stellar birth. A larger nearby galaxy, called Messier 81, is gravitationally interacting with Messier 82, prodding it into producing the new stars.

This picture was taken by Spitzer’s infrared array camera as a part of the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxy Survey. Blue indicates infrared light of 3.6 microns, green corresponds to 4.5 microns, and red to 5.8 and 8.0 microns. The contribution from starlight (measured at 3.6 microns) has been subtracted from the 5.8- and 8-micron images to enhance the visibility of the dust features. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht New functional principle to generate the „third harmonic“
16.02.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>