Distant galaxy puts on a fireworks show in new Hubble photo

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of sciences little gems that non-sciencey folk appreciate in equal measure. Especially when it’s in the party picture mood like it is here…

These two new images show a tadpole-shaped galaxy named Kiso 5639 streaking through the sky like a cosmic firework. This galaxy — shining about 82 million light-years from Earth — looks like about 10 percent of galaxies in the early universe as seen by the telescope, according to a Hubble statement.

“I think Kiso 5639 is a beautiful, up-close example of what must have been common long ago,” Debra Elmegreen, a researcher studying this galaxy, said in a statement.

“The current thinking is that galaxies in the early universe grow from accreting gas from the surrounding neighborhood. It’s a stage that galaxies, including our Milky Way, must go through as they are growing up.”

These new observations by Hubble show that the “head” of the tadpole galaxy is filled with dozens of star clusters across its 2,700 light-year diameter.

The star clusters, according to the Hubble data, are, on average, less than 1 million years old and are more massive than other clusters of stars found outside of the galaxy’s head.

Another photo of Kiso 5639.

IMAGE: NASA/ESA

The rest of Kiso 5639 also plays host to star formation, but far less than in the head, and other star clusters throughout the galaxy are up to a few billion years old, the statement reads.

“Hubble also revealed giant holes peppered throughout the galaxy’s starburst head,” the statement says. “These cavities give the galaxy’s head a Swiss-cheese appearance because numerous supernova detonations — like firework aerial bursts — have carved out holes of rarified superheated gas.”

This extreme star-forming action appears to have been caused by the galaxy running headlong into a blob of gas that dropped onto the galaxy, triggering star birth, simulations done by a team at the Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University in Germany have shown.

And this could have implications for the future of the galaxy.

“Galaxies rotate, and as Kiso 5639 continues to spin, another part of the galaxy may receive an infusion of new gas from this filament, instigating another round of star birth,” Elmegreen added.

Do you ever what might out there? Out back and beyond of the atmosphere. Many people guess, some research, few know. A good way to go about finding out is on one of our Science courses here at The Sheffield College. Maybe you’ll be next in line to telescopic naming rights!

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