OmegaCAM — the wide-field optical camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) — has captured the spectacular Orion Nebula and its associated cluster of young stars in great detail,  producing this beautiful new image. This famous object, the birthplace of many massive stars, is one of the closest stellar nurseries, at a distance of about 1350 light-years. Credit: ESO/G. Beccari

A Tale of Three Stellar Cities

A Tale of Three Stellar Cities Using new observations from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope, astronomers have discovered three different populations of young stars within the…

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Mine’s a Star-opramen. Studioloks

Booze in space: how the universe is absolutely drowning in the hard stuff

Booze in space: how the universe is absolutely drowning in the hard stuff Mine’s a Star-opramen. Studioloks Alexander MacKinnon, University of Glasgow A cold beer…

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In this composite image combining GBT radio and WISE infrared observations, the filament of ammonia molecules appears red and Orion Nebula gas appears blue. Image: R. Friesen, Dunlap Institute; J. Pineda, MPE; GBO/AUI/NSF

Radio Astronomers Peer Deep into the Stellar Nursery of the Orion Nebula

Radio Astronomers Peer Deep into the Stellar Nursery of the Orion Nebula Astronomers have released an image of a vast filament of star-forming gas, 1200…

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The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array is made up of 66 antennas, all pointed at the sky collecting data 24 hours a day. ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

New powerful telescopes allow direct imaging of nascent galaxies 12 billion light years away

New powerful telescopes allow direct imaging of nascent galaxies 12 billion light years away Artist’s impression of a quasar shining through a galaxy’s ‘super halo’…

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The distorted galaxy in the simulation results from a collision between two galaxies, followed by them merging. Astronomers think such a merger could be the reason why SPT0346-52 is having such a boom of stellar construction. Once the two galaxies collide, gas near the center of the merged galaxy (shown as the bright region in the center of the simulation) is compressed, producing a burst of new stars. The composite inset shows X-ray data from Chandra (blue), short wavelength infrared data from Hubble (green), infrared light from Spitzer (red) at longer wavelengths, and infrared data from ALMA (magenta) at even longer wavelengths. (The light from SPT0346-52 is distorted and magnified by the gravity of an intervening galaxy, producing three elongated images in the ALMA data located near the center of the image. SPT0346-52 is not visible in the Hubble or Spitzer data, but the intervening galaxy causing the gravitational lensing is detected.) There is no blue at the center of the image, showing that Chandra did not detect any X-rays that could have signaled the presence of a growing black hole. Credit: Image courtesy of CXC Press Office.

‘Hyper-starburst’ galaxy churns out stars, clues to universe’s evolution

‘Hyper-starburst’ galaxy churns out stars, clues to universe’s evolution A recently discovered galaxy is undergoing an extraordinary boom of stellar construction, revealed by a group…

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The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence of a massive and gravitationally-bound collection of over 1300 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster. One particular member of this cosmic community, NGC 4388, is captured in this image, as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Located some 60 million light-years away, NGC 4388 is experiencing some of the less desirable effects that come with belonging to such a massive galaxy cluster. It is undergoing a transformation, and has taken on a somewhat confused identity. While the galaxy’s outskirts appear smooth and featureless, a classic feature of an elliptical galaxy, its centre displays remarkable dust lanes constrained within two symmetric spiral arms, which emerge from the galaxy’s glowing core — one of the obvious features of a spiral galaxy. Within the arms, speckles of bright blue mark the locations of young stars, indicating that NGC 4388 has hosted recent bursts of star formation. Despite the mixed messages, NGC 4388 is classified as a spiral galaxy. Its unusual combination of features are thought to have been caused by interactions between NGC 4388 and the Virgo Cluster. Gravitational interactions — from glancing blows to head-on collisions, tidal influencing, mergers, and galactic cannibalism — can be devastating to galaxies. While some may be lucky enough to simply suffer a distorted spiral arm or newly-triggered wave of star formation, others see their structure and contents completely and irrevocably altered. Image credits: ESA/NASA

Hubble Catches a Transformation in the Virgo Constellation

Hubble Catches a Transformation in the Virgo Constellation The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence…

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NGC 1222, seen in this image taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST), is a galaxy with a rather eventful story to tell. NGC 1222 has been described as a peculiar example of a type of galaxy known as a lenticular galaxy. Typically, this kind of galaxy would present a rather smooth appearance on the sky and would consist mostly of old, reddish stars. A bit dull, perhaps. But NGC 1222 is certainly not a typical member of its class — and it’s anything but dull. Observations show the characteristic features of very recent star formation on a huge scale — an event known as a starburst. The reason for all this violent activity is caused by the fact that NGC 1222 is not alone. It actually contains three compact regions, each of which appears to be the central nucleus of a galaxy. Astronomers think that NGC 1222 is in the process of swallowing up two much smaller dwarf galaxies that strayed too close to it. It is likely that the encounter was the trigger for the starburst in NGC 1222, bringing in fresh supplies of gas that are now fuelling the burst of star formation. Although its peculiarities were first seen in photographic images, these were not able to reveal the level of fine detail that can be recovered by Hubble. The image taken by Hubble allows us to see an astonishing amount of structure in this galaxy, emphasising its colourful history. Against the smooth background of old stars that was the original lenticular galaxy, we can clearly see dark filaments of dust and bright filaments of gas, both associated with the powerful star formation process.

Hubble Steals a Look at a Hungry Giant

Hubble Steals a Look at a Hungry Giant NGC 1222, seen in this image taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 on board the NASA/ESA…

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