A telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has captured images of nearby galaxies that resemble colorful cosmic fireworks and will help astronomers discover what drives gas to form stars.
Images obtained with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile show different components of galaxies in different colours, allowing scientists to pinpoint the locations of young stars and heating gas around them, according to ESO. It is a statement.
Combining these images with data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/ Submillimeter Array (ALMA), of which the European Observatory is a partner, helps the team work out what causes gas to end up forming stars, because although the astronomical community knows that they were born in Gas clouds, and it is not yet known what stimulates the process of star formation and what role galaxies play
– This (ESO) July 16, 2021
To understand this process, astronomers have observed many nearby galaxies with telescopes on Earth and in space, and have surveyed regions of different galaxies involved in star birth.
“For the first time we are solving individual units of star formation in a wide range of locations and environments within a sample that is well representative of the different types of galaxies,” said Eric Emsellem, an astronomer at ESO in Germany and lead author of the scientific study. A paper describing the study conducted as part of the Physics at High Angular Resolution in Near Galaxies (PHANGS) project.
“We can directly observe the gas that gives rise to stars, see the same young stars and witness their evolution through different stages,” he explained.
The team of scientists has launched the latest set of galactic surveys obtained with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument – installed on ESO’s VLT – to track newborn stars and the hot gas around them, a gas that is illuminated and heated by stars and indicates a process of star formation. .
The new MUSE images were combined with observations of the same galaxies obtained with ALMA, thanks to this, the team can examine the regions of the galaxy in which star formation occurs, and compare them with those in which it is expected. In order to better understand what stimulates, drives or slows down the birth of new stars.
According to the scientists, the resulting images are “impressive” and provide an “amazingly colorful” view of stellar nurseries – places where stars are born – in our neighboring galaxies.
For the PHANGS project, the MUSE instrument has detected 30,000 hot gaseous nebulae, collected about 15 million spectra from different galactic regions, and ALMA observations have allowed the identification of about 100,000 cold gas regions in 90 nearby galaxies, producing an unprecedented atlas of star nurseries. from the nearby universe.
“Thanks to PHANGS, this is the first time we’ve been able to piece together such a complete view, and get images sharp enough to see individual clouds, stars and nebulae related to star formation,” said study co-author Francesco Belfiore. INAF-Arcetri in Florence (Italy).
In addition to ALMA and MUSE, the PHANGS project also includes observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and will be enhanced with upcoming telescopes and instrumentation, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.