The Galactic Beauty of Star Formation

I’d never seen galaxy images like this before. Nobody had! These images highlight star forming regions in nearby(ish) galaxies. There are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding how star formation actually occurs. To answer those questions, we are observing galaxies that are actively forming stars within giant clouds of gas. Until recently, we didn’t have the resolution needed to clearly image the individual gas clouds themselves. But images released by a project called PHANGS (Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS) in a collaboration between the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope and the Atacama Large millimeter/submillmeter Array (ALMA) have provided never before seen detail of star forming clouds in other galaxies.

This image combines observations of the nearby galaxies NGC 1300, NGC 1087, NGC 3627 (top, from left to right), NGC 4254 and NGC 4303 (bottom, from left to right) taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Each individual image is a combination of observations conducted at different wavelengths of light to map stellar populations and warm gas.. Image and Image Description PHANGS/ESO. Original Image
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One of the Brightest Star-Forming Regions in the Milky Way, Seen in Infrared

Certain parts of the galaxy are more magical than others.  There are barren wastelands where barely a particle strays through occasionally, and there are fantastical nebulae that can literally light up the sky.  But beyond their good looks, those nebulae hold secrets to understanding some of the most important features of any galaxy – stars. Now, for the first time, a team from the University of Maryland managed to capture a high resolution image of one of the most active star-forming regions in our part of the galaxy.  Data from that image are not only spectacular, but can illuminate the details of the star formation process.

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Newly Forming Stars Don’t Blast Away Material as Previously Believed. So Why Do They Stop Growing?

We thought we understood how stars are formed. It turns out, we don’t. Not completely, anyway. A new study, recently conducted using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, is sending astronomers back to the drawing board to rewrite the accepted model of stellar formation.

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The Core Of The Milky Way Is An Extreme Place

Astronomers always like to look at incredibly violent places.  Violence, in the astronomical sense, makes for rare conditions that can explain much about our universe.  One of the violent places that astronomers love to study is the center of our Milky Way galaxy.  Now, astronomers from the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) at Harvard have come up with a new catalogue of some of the most intense areas near the galactic core.  They hope it will increase our understanding of these potential star-forming regions – and help explain why so few stars are actually formed in them.

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Astronomers Can Predict When a Galaxy’s Star Formation Ends Based on the Shape and Size of its Disk

A galaxy’s main business is star formation. And when they’re young, like youth everywhere, they keep themselves busy with it. But galaxies age, evolve, and experience a slow-down in their rate of star formation. Eventually, galaxies cease forming new stars altogether, and astronomers call that quenching. They’ve been studying quenching for decades, yet much about it remains a mystery.

A new study based on the IllustrisTNG simulations has found a link between a galaxy’s quenching and its stellar size.

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The Universe in Formation. Hubble Sees 6 Examples of Merging Galaxies

Audio narration by the author is available above

10 billion years ago, galaxies of the Universe were ablaze with the light of newly forming stars. This epic phase of history is known as  “Cosmic Noon” – the height of all star creation. Galaxies like our Milky Way aren’t creating stars at nearly the rates they were in the ancient past. However, there is a time when galaxies in the present can explode with star formation – when they collide with each other. This recently published collage of merging galaxies by the Hubble HiPEEC survey (Hubble imaging Probe of Extreme Environments and Clusters) highlights six of these collisions which help us understand star formation in the early Universe.

Newly released collage of six galaxy mergers used in the HiPEEC survey.
Top Row Left to Right: NGC 3256, 1614, 4195 Bottom Row Left To Right: NGC 3690, 6052, 34
– Credit ESA/Hubble/NASA
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