Happy Sweet Sixteen, Hubble Telescope!

Article ID: 519818

Released: 20-Apr-2006 3:50 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

  • Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI), and P. Puxley (National Science Foundation)

    Composite image of the magnificent starburst galaxy Messier 82 (M82) from visible-light observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in three broad wavelength bands coded in red (near-infrared/red light), green (yellow light), and blue (blue light) as well as the light of hydrogen emission coded in red/orange. NASA and ESA are releasing this image to celebrate Hubble's 16 years of success.

  • Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, and JPL-Caltech

    Composite of multi-wavelength images of the active galaxy M82 from the three Great Observatories: Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope. X-ray data recorded by Chandra (courtesy of NASA/CXC/JHU/D.Strickland) appears here in blue; infrared light recorded by Spitzer (courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/C. Engelbracht (University of Arizona)) appears in red; Hubble's observations (courtesy of NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)) of hydrogen emission appears in orange, and the bluest visible light appears in yellow-green.

  • Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Details in the Hubble Space Telescope image of the active galaxy M82. Left: A portion of M82's bluish disk, largely composed of young, hot stars. Numerous bright blue-white star-forming clumps and wisps of darker, cooler dust and gas appear superimposed on the disk. Center: The central "inner-city" portion of the galaxy showing the combined light of countless stars and revealing numerous star-forming clumps, dark red clouds of gas and dust obscuring the light from the galaxy's core, and an overall field of fainter resolved and unresolved red (cooler) and blue (hotter) stars. Right: Plumes of gas and dust amid a field of numerous faint, resolved stars blown from the central regions of M82 into the outer "suburbs."

Newswise — To celebrate the Hubble Space Telescope's 16 years of success, the two space agencies involved in the project, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), are releasing this image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82). This mosaic image is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. The galaxy is remarkable for its bright blue disk, webs of shredded clouds, and fiery-looking plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out of its central regions.

Throughout the galaxy's center, young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy. The resulting huge concentration of young stars carved into the gas and dust at the galaxy's center. The fierce galactic superwind generated from these stars compresses enough gas to make millions of more stars.

In M82, young stars are crammed into tiny but massive star clusters. These, in turn, congregate by the dozens to make the bright patches, or "starburst clumps," in the central parts of M82. The clusters in the clumps can only be distinguished in the sharp Hubble images. Most of the pale, white objects sprinkled around the body of M82 that look like fuzzy stars are actually individual star clusters about 20 light-years across and containing up to a million stars.

The rapid rate of star formation in this galaxy eventually will be self-limiting. When star formation becomes too vigorous, it will consume or destroy the material needed to make more stars. The starburst then will subside, probably in a few tens of millions of years.

Located 12 million light-years away, M82 appears high in the northern spring sky in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. It is also called the "Cigar Galaxy" because of the elliptical shape produced by the oblique tilt of its starry disk relative to our line of sight.

The observation was made in March 2006, with the Advanced Camera for Surveys' Wide Field Channel. Astronomers assembled this 6-image composite mosaic by combining exposures taken with four colored filters that capture starlight from visible and infrared wavelengths as well as the light from the glowing hydrogen filaments.

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI), and P. Puxley (National Science Foundation)

The Hubble Space Telescope is an international cooperative projectbetween NASA and the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. The Institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research inAstronomy, Inc., Washington.


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