Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Topsy-Turvy Galaxy

24.11.2006
The captivating appearance of this image of the starburst galaxy NGC 1313, taken with the FORS instrument at ESO's Very Large Telescope, belies its inner turmoil.

The dense clustering of bright stars and gas in its arms, a sign of an ongoing boom of star births, shows a mere glimpse of the rough times it has seen. Probing ever deeper into the heart of the galaxy, astronomers have revealed many enigmas that continue to defy our understanding.


This FORS image of the central parts of NGC 1313 shows a stunning natural beauty. The galaxy bears some resemblance to some of the Milky Way's closest neighbours, the Magellanic Clouds. NGC 1313 has a barred spiral shape, with the arms emanating outwards in a loose twist from the ends of the bar. The galaxy lies just 15 million light-years away from the Milky Way - a mere skip on cosmological scales. The spiral arms are a hotbed of star-forming activity, with numerous young clusters of hot stars being born continuously at a staggering rate out of the dense clouds of gas and dust. Their light blasts through the surrounding gas, creating an intricately beautiful pattern of light and dark nebulosity.

But NGC 1313 is not just a pretty picture. A mere scratch beneath the elegant surface reveals evidence of some of the most puzzling problems facing astronomers in the science of stars and galaxies. Starburst galaxies are fascinating objects to study in their own right; in neighbouring galaxies, around one quarter of all massive stars are born in these powerful engines, at rates up to a thousand times higher than in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

In the majority of starbursts the upsurge in star's births is triggered when two galaxies merge, or come too close to each other. The mutual attraction between the galaxies causes immense turmoil in the gas and dust, causing the sudden 'burst' in star formation.

NGC 1313's appearance suggests it has seen troubled times: its spiral arms look lop-sided and gas globules are spread out widely around them. This is more easily seen in ESO 43b/06, showing a larger area of the sky around the galaxy. Moreover, observations with ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla have revealed that its 'real' centre, around which it rotates, does not coincide with the central bar. Its rotation is therefore also off kilter.

Strangely enough NGC 1313 seems to be an isolated galaxy. It is not part of a group and has no neighbour, and it is not clear whether it may have swallowed a small companion in its past. So what caused its asymmetry and stellar baby boom?

An explanation based on the presence of the central bar also does not hold for NGC 1313: the majority of its star formation is actually taking place not in its bar but in dense gassy regions scattered around the arms. By what mechanism the gas is compressed for stars to form at this staggering rate, astronomers simply aren't sure.

Probing further into NGC 1313's insides reveals yet more mysteries. In the midst of the cosmic violence of the starburst regions lie two objects that emit large amounts of highly energetic X-rays - so-called ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULX). Astronomers suspect that they might be black holes with masses of perhaps a few hundred times the mass of our Sun each, that formed as part of a binary star system. How such objects are created out of ordinary stars cannot be conclusively explained by current models.

NGC 1313 is an altogether very intriguing target for astronomy. This image, obtained with ESO's Very Large Telescope, demonstrates once again how the imager FORS is ideally suited to capturing the beauty and stunning complexity of galaxies by observing them in different wavelength filters, combined here to form a stunning colour image.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-43-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet
20.01.2017 | San Francisco State University

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>