This stunning image shows a "golden swirl" of newly born stars in a distant galaxy

The latest image from the ESO's Very Large Telescope reveals a distant galaxy that is full of freshly created and highly energetic stars.
Christopher McFadden
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The ESO's Very Large Telescope captured this view of the starburst galaxy NGC 4303.

ESO/PHANGS 

  • ESO has just released a new image of a distant galaxy full of baby stars.
  • The image is, frankly, breathtaking.
  • They have to glean more information on how stars actually form.

In a new image released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an extraordinarily high rate of star formation has been caught on camera by the Very Large Telescope. The baby stars, according to the ESO, are produced by dazzling, golden swirling clouds of gas, which are all shown in the stunning new image.

The new galaxy, called NGC 4303, often known as Messier 61, is a spiral galaxy and is 50 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo. One of the largest galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, a sizable collection of neighboring galaxies, is NGC 4303.

"It has an unusually high amount of stars being born and has been used by astronomers as a laboratory to better understand the fascinating phenomena of star formation," the ESO explains.

An example of a starburst galaxy, NGC 4393 is one in which an exceptionally large number of stars are formed. The European Southern Observatory released a statement saying that by studying this type of galaxy, astronomers are better able to comprehend how stars are formed throughout the cosmos (ESO).

"Stars form when clouds of cold gas collapse," ESO officials wrote in the statement. "The energetic radiation from newly born stars will heat and ionize the surrounding remaining gas."

The image was captured in Chile using the Very Large Telescope (VLT). It depicts dazzling, swirling clouds of ionized plasma that resemble a "whirlpool of gold." According to the statement, the whirling clouds act as cosmic breadcrumbs that show the course taken by rising stars.

To get this "jewel-like" image, astronomers used the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the VLT to observe NGC 4303 at various light wavelengths. Combining their observations led to the discovery of a dazzling golden vortex that was dotted with blue, green, and red gas clouds that represented the ionized oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur clouds, respectively.

According to the announcement, the most recent observations were made as part of research called Physics at High Angular Resolution in Nearby Galaxies (PHANGS), which seeks to identify nearby galaxies at all electromagnetic wavelengths.

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