Galactic fireworks: New ESO images reveal stunning features of nearby galaxies


IMAGE: This image integrates observations of the nearby galaxies NGC 1300, NGC 1087, NGC 3627 (top, from delegated right), NGC 4254 and NGC 4303 (bottom, from delegated right) taken…
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A group of astronomers has actually launched new observations of nearby galaxies that look like vibrant cosmic fireworks. The images, acquired with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), reveal various elements of the galaxies in unique colours, enabling astronomers to determine the areas of young stars and the gas they heat up around them. By integrating these new observations with information from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, the group is assisting shed new light on what activates gas to form stars.

Astronomers understand that stars are born in clouds of gas, however what triggers star development, and how galaxies as an entire play into it, stays a secret. To comprehend this procedure, a group of scientists has actually observed different nearby galaxies with effective telescopes on the ground and in space, scanning the various galactic areas associated with excellent births.

“For the first time we are resolving individual units of star formation over a wide range of locations and environments in a sample that well represents the different types of galaxies,” states Eric Emsellem, an astronomer at ESO in Germany and lead of the VLT-based observations carried out as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) task. “We can directly observe the gas that gives birth to stars, we see the young stars themselves, and we witness their evolution through various phases.”

Emsellem, who is likewise connected with the University of Lyon, France, and his group have actually now launched their most current set of galactic scans, taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s VLT in the Atacama Desert in Chile. They utilized MUSE to trace newborn stars and the warm gas around them, which is lit up and warmed up by the stars and functions as a cigarette smoking weapon of continuous star development.

The new MUSE images are now being integrated with observations of the exact same galaxies taken with ALMA and launched previously this year. ALMA, which is likewise found in Chile, is particularly well matched to mapping cold gas clouds — the parts of galaxies that supply the raw product out of which stars type.

By integrating MUSE and ALMA images astronomers can take a look at the galactic areas where star development is taking place, compared to where it is anticipated to occur, so regarding much better comprehend what activates, increases or keeps back the birth of new stars. The resulting images are stunning, providing a marvelously vibrant insight into excellent nurseries in our neighbouring galaxies.

“There are many mysteries we want to unravel,” states Kathryn Kreckel from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and PHANGS employee. “Are stars more often born in specific regions of their host galaxies — and, if so, why? And after stars are born how does their evolution influence the formation of new generations of stars?”

Astronomers will now have the ability to address these concerns thanks to the wealth of MUSE and ALMA information the PHANGS group have actually acquired. MUSE gathers spectra — the “bar codes” astronomers scan to reveal the homes and nature of cosmic items — at every place within its field of view, hence supplying much richer info than standard instruments. For the PHANGS task, MUSE observed 30 000 nebulae of warm gas and gathered about 15 million spectra of various galactic areas. The ALMA observations, on the other hand, permitted astronomers to map around 100 000 cold-gas areas throughout 90 nearby galaxies, producing an unprecedentedly sharp atlas of stellar nurseries in the close Universe.

In addition to ALMA and MUSE, the PHANGS task likewise features observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The different observatories were picked to permit the group to scan our galactic neighbours at various wavelengths (noticeable, near-infrared and radio), with each wavelength variety unveiling unique parts of the observed galaxies. “Their combination allows us to probe the various stages of stellar birth — from the formation of the stellar nurseries to the onset of star formation itself and the final destruction of the nurseries by the newly born stars — in more detail than is possible with individual observations,” states PHANGS employee Francesco Belfiore from INAF-Arcetri in Florence, Italy. “PHANGS is the first time we have been able to assemble such a complete view, taking images sharp enough to see the individual clouds, stars, and nebulae that signify forming stars.”

The work performed by the PHANGS task will be additional developed by upcoming telescopes and instruments, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The information acquired in this method will lay additional foundation for observations with ESO’s future Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will begin running later on this years and will allow a much more comprehensive take a look at the structures of excellent nurseries.

“As amazing as PHANGS is, the resolution of the maps that we produce is just sufficient to identify and separate individual star-forming clouds, but not good enough to see what’s happening inside them in detail,” explained Eva Schinnerer, a research study group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and primary private investigator of the PHANGS task, under which the new observations were carried out. “New observational efforts by our team and others are pushing the boundary in this direction, so we have decades of exciting discoveries ahead of us.”


More info

The global PHANGS group is made up of over 90 researchers varying from Master trainees to retired people operating at 30 organizations throughout 4 continents. The MUSE information decrease working group within PHANGS is being led by Eric Emsellem (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany and Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon, Université de Lyon, ENS de Lyon, Saint-Genis Laval, France) and consists of Francesco Belfiore (INAF Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Florence, Italy), Guillermo Blanc (Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, United States), Enrico Congiu (Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile and Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution for Science, Atacama Region, Chile), Brent Groves (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia), I-Ting Ho (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany [MPIA]), Kathryn Kreckel (Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany), Rebecca McElroy (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, Sydney, Australia), Ismael Pessa (MPIA), Patricia Sanchez-Blazquez (Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain), Francesco Santoro (MPIA), Fabian Scheuermann (Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany) and Eva Schinnerer (MPIA).

Go to the ESO public image archive to see a sample of PHANGS images.

ESO is the primary intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most efficient ground-based huge observatory without a doubt. It has 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, in addition to the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO performs an enthusiastic program concentrated on the style, building and operation of effective ground-based observing centers making it possible for astronomers to make crucial clinical discoveries. ESO likewise plays a leading function in promoting and arranging cooperation in huge research study. ESO runs 3 special first-rate observing websites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO runs the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer along with 2 study telescopes, VISTA operating in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. Also at Paranal ESO will host and run the Cherenkov Telescope Array South, the world’s biggest and most delicate gamma-ray observatory. ESO is likewise a significant partner in 2 centers on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the biggest huge task around. And on Cerro Armazones, near Paranal, ESO is constructing the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will end up being “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


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Eric Emsellem

European Southern Observatory

Garching bei München, Germany

Tel: +49 89 3200 6914

Email: [email protected]

Eva Schinnerer

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

Heidelberg, Germany

Tel: +49 6221 528 294

Email: [email protected]

Kathryn Kreckel

Astronomisches Recheninstitut, Zentrum für Astronomie, Universität Heidelberg

Heidelberg, Germany

Email: [email protected]

Francesco Belfiore

INAF Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri

Florence, Italy

Email: [email protected]

Bárbara Ferreira

ESO Media Manager

Garching bei München, Germany

Tel: +49 89 3200 6670

Cell: +49 151 241 664 00

Email: [email protected]

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