Andromeda's coat of many colors (w/ video)

April 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESA's fleet of space telescopes has captured the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, in different wavelengths. Most of these wavelengths are invisible to the eye and each shows a different aspect of the galaxy's nature.

Visible light, as seen by optical ground-based telescopes and our eyes, reveals the various stars that shine in the Andromeda Galaxy, yet it is just one small part of the full spectrum of . There are many different wavelengths that are invisible to us but which are revealed by ESA's orbiting telescopes.

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ESA's fleet of space telescopes has captured the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, in different wavelengths. Most of these wavelengths are invisible to the eye and each shows a different aspect of the galaxy's nature. Credit: See closing credits at the end of the movie

Starting at the long end, the Planck spacecraft collects microwaves. These show up particles of incredibly cold , at just a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. Slightly higher temperature dust is revealed by the shorter, infrared wavelengths observed by the Herschel . This dust traces locations in the spiral arms of the Andromeda Galaxy where new stars are being born today.

The XMM-Newton telescope detects wavelengths shorter than visible light, collecting ultraviolet and X-rays. These show older stars, many nearing the end of their lives and others that have already exploded, sending shockwaves rolling through space. By monitoring the core of Andromeda since 2002, XMM-Newton has revealed many variable stars, some of which have undergone large stellar detonations known as novae.

Ultraviolet wavelengths also display the light from extremely . These are young stars that will not live long. They exhaust their nuclear fuel and explode as supernovae typically within a few tens of millions of years after they are born. The ultraviolet light is usually absorbed by dust and re-emitted as infrared, so the areas where ultraviolet light is seen directly correspond to relatively clear, dust-free parts of Andromeda.

By putting all of these observations together, and seeing Andromeda in its many different colours, astronomers are able to follow the life cycle of the .

Explore further: Andromeda Adrift in Sea of Dust in New Spitzer Image

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6 comments

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bystander53
not rated yet Apr 27, 2011
Your sound quality is really bad. You need to recopy the video. Sound is MUCH better at ESA.
Greene
2 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2011
I want to ask what may be a dumb question. If looking out into deep space is like looking back in time then why can't we see the Milky Way at various stages development just by looking at the right distance?
Bob_B
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2011
Let me guess: that light has already passed us by?!?
LKD
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2011
If looking out into deep space is like looking back in time then why can't we see the Milky Way at various stages development just by looking at the right distance?


We can only see them 13 days, or 13 million years, or 13 billion years ago because they are that far away. We see the Milkyway as it was anywhere from a couple years, to 100,000 years ago. Because the Milkyway is that big.

Our own sun is 8 minutes younger when we look at it then it truly is. It is simply prospective. We can see the milky way from 13 billion years ago, but we have to catch up with that light that left us, which is around 13 billion light years from where we are. We are not accomplishing that. ;)

You theoretically could piece together an image of the Milkyway from 13 billion years ago by abusing and decoding gravity distortions that bend and contort light. But that would require mapping every electron from every source from every direction. It won't happen, but it's 'possible'.
that_guy
not rated yet Apr 27, 2011
Dude, that infrared view is so FTW
6_6
not rated yet Apr 29, 2011
If looking out into deep space is like looking back in time then why can't we see the Milky Way at various stages development just by looking at the right distance?

it's too big possibly infinite.. limited by the technology and resolution and magnification.. time will change that for sure

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