Posts Tagged ‘Starburst Galaxy’

Sparkling Hook


As if waiting for cosmic fish, this hook-shaped galaxy sparkles in a deep image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Or perhaps you’ve turned your head and you see a galactic smile.

Explore the beautiful galaxy known as J082354.96+280621.6, or J082354.96 for short. Let us know what shapes or stories you see in the comments below.

J082354.96 is a starburst galaxy. These types of galaxies have high rates of star formation. As you explore the image, look for bright blue areas. These are new stars being born. J082354.96 is also warped meaning another galaxy has interacted with it millions of years in the past. As galaxies move near each other, gravity pushes and pulls the stars into unusual shapes. Gravity also pushes gas and dust together where it might collect, collapse and form a new star. You can see the cores and warped arms of the two interacting galaxies at the ends of the hook.

As you zoom across the image, look for faint galaxies far in the dark background. The two bright stars are actually stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy between Earth and J082354.96. The galaxy is found about 650 million light-years from Earth toward the northern constellation Lynx.

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Sparks in the Dark


Violent things can come in small faint packages as shown in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the starburst galaxy NGC 3738.

Explore the glowing red reservoirs of hydrogen gas, filaments of dust, and diffuse glow of thousands of stars in this faint irregular galaxy. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

NGC 3738 is a dwarf galaxy in the middle of extreme star formation. The glowing red areas are full of hydrogen, the stuff that helps make new stars. Gravity pulls together gas and dust in pockets within the cloud. As the pocket becomes more massive, it begins to heat up until eventually it can become hot enough to fuse hydrogen atoms in a sustainable nuclear reaction. These new stars give off strong stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation that excites hydrogen atoms in the rest of the cloud causing it to glow a characteristic red.

This galaxy is relatively close to Earth; just 12 million light-years from the Sun; meaning light, traveling nearly 6 trillion miles per year, took 12 million years to cross the intergalactic distance. NGC 3738 is a compact bluish dwarf galaxy, the faintest of starburst galaxies. Blue compact dwarfs are generally blue because of large clusters of hot, blue and young stars. These stars tend to be massive, meaning they burn through their supply of hydrogen fuel within just a million years. If they are massive enough, they will end their lives in cataclysmic stellar explosions called supernovae. For a time, a single star can outshine an entire galaxy, releasing more energy in a few moments than our Sun produces in its entire expected lifespan of 8 billion years.

As you explore NGC 3738, you may notice it seems jumbled and disorganized. These galaxies don’t have spiral arms nor bright center bulges. Some astronomers believe these galaxies resemble some of the earliest galaxies that formed in the early Universe and may provide clues into how stars and galaxies formed during that time. As you pan across the image, look for dozens of faint and faraway galaxies scattered throughout this deep image of the cosmos.

NGC 3738, first observed by British astronomer William Herschel in 1789, is found in the constellation Ursa Major, The Great Bear or Big Dipper. It belongs to the Messier 81 group of galaxies, a nearby galactic cluster.

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Whale of a Galaxy

Credit: ESA and NASA

Stars burst into life in the belly of the Whale Galaxy in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the bright glow from the galaxy’s central bulge, the dust patterns and star clouds in the image. What pictures does your imagination create? Leave a note below.

NGC 4631, or the Whale Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy probably similar to our own Milky Way. We are seeing the galaxy edge-on, from the side. Instead of whirling spiral arms, we are peering at the bright galactic center through its dusty arms. The Whale Galaxy is experiencing a galactic starburst with many stars being formed in short period of time. Even as you peer deep in to the galaxy and outward along its spiral arms, look for blue patches of stars. These are hot, young stars.

The Whale Galaxy is a fairly close galaxy; at least in the neighborhood. It is found about 30 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs. The galaxy is not even on both sides, suggesting a whale or fish shape to astronomers who first discovered and studied the galaxy.

Spiral 5

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

The swirling arms of NGC 3310 blaze the number five in this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

NGC 3310Explore the image of this active starburst galaxy. New stars in most galaxies form at a slow rate. Starburst galaxies churn out new stars at high rates. Redder stars near the galaxy’s core are older stars while hot, young stars glow blue near the middle and edges of the spiral arms. Clusters of these new stars are spread out all the way to the dim edges of the galaxy. Astronomers show that the ages of the stars range from one million to more than 100 million years. Scientists are unsure of what caused the starburst activity to turn on in NGC 3310. They used to believe that galaxy interactions and collisions were involved. But NGC 3310 shows that some other processes might be involved.

NGC 3310 lies about 59 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy is about half the size of our Milky Way Galaxy with a diameter of about 52,000 light-years.

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Star Scorpion

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

A starry scorpion reaches out for a galactic morsel in this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this disturbed spiral galaxy. Leave a note below describing the shapes and patterns you see in this image. Blue patches of light woven throughout the tangled spiral arms of NGC 7673 are giant blue star clusters. The immense star clusters contain thousands of young stars.

Astronomers are not clear as to the cause of the new star formation. One possibility may be a near miss or collision between NGC 7673 and another galaxy. Another possibility is an abundance of gas and dust within the galaxy. This could have led to a massive star formation. Scientists call this type of hyper star formation a starburst.

NGC 7673 is located about 150 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Pegasus, the flying horse. Two reddish background galaxies also appear in the image with NGC 7673.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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