A galaxy blooming with new stars

Dec 15, 2011
The VLT Survey Telescope has captured in sharp detail the beauty of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253. This new portrait is probably the best wide-field view of this object and its surroundings ever taken. It demonstrates that the VST, the newest telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, provides broad views of the sky while also offering impressive image quality. Luminous regions of ongoing star formation are spread throughout NGC 253, which is pumping out new stars at a furious pace. The data were processed using the VST-Tube system developed by A. Grado and collaborators at the INAF-Capodimonte Observatory. Credit: ESO/INAF-VST Acknowledgement: A. Grado/L. Limatola/INAF-Capodimonte Observatory

(PhysOrg.com) -- The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) has captured the beauty of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253. The new portrait is probably the most detailed wide-field view of this object and its surroundings ever taken. It demonstrates that the VST, the newest telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, provides broad views of the sky while also offering impressive image sharpness.

NGC 253 gleams about eleven and a half million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor. It is often just called the , although other descriptive names include the Silver Coin or Silver Dollar Galaxy. It is easy to get a good look at NGC 253 through binoculars as it is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky after the Milky Way's closest, big galactic neighbour, the .

Astronomers have noted the widespread active star formation in NGC 253 and labelled it a "starburst" galaxy. The many bright clumps dotting the galaxy are stellar nurseries where hot have just ignited. The radiation streaming from these giant blue-white babies makes the surrounding clouds glow brightly (green in this image).

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This zoom video sequence starts with a view of a rather empty part of the sky that includes the constellations of Cetus and Sculptor. As we close in an elongated haze appears. This is the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253, one of the brightest in the southern skies. The final sequence shows a very detailed new view of this galaxy from the VLT Survey Telescope. Credit: ESO/INAF-VST, Nick Risinger

This nearby spiral galaxy was discovered by the German–British astronomer Caroline Herschel, the sister of the famed astronomer William Herschel, as she searched for comets in 1783. The Herschels would have been delighted by the crisp, richly detailed view of NGC 253 that the VST can provide.

This latest image of NGC 253 was taken during VST's science verification phase — when the telescope's scientific performance is assessed before it enters operations. The VST data are being combined with infrared images from VISTA to identify the younger generations of stars in NGC 253. This picture is more than 12 000 pixels across and the superb sky conditions at ESO's Paranal Observatory, combined with the fine telescope optics, result in sharp star images over the entire image.

The VST is a 2.6-metre wide-field survey telescope with a one-degree field of view — twice as broad as the full Moon. The VST programme is a joint venture between the INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy and ESO. The 268-megapixel camera OmegaCAM at its heart is designed to map the sky both quickly and with very fine image quality. VST is the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light, complementing ESO's VISTA infrared survey telescope, also located at Paranal.

Zooming into this new picture not only allows a very detailed inspection of the star-forming spiral arms of the galaxy to be made, but also reveals a very rich tapestry of much more distant galaxies far beyond .

Explore further: The entropy of black holes

Related Stories

VISTA views the Sculptor Galaxy (w/ Video)

Jun 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A spectacular new image of the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253) has been taken with the ESO VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile as part of one of its first major observational campaigns. ...

VST looks at the Leo Triplet -- and beyond

Jul 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A huge image, from the new VLT Survey Telescope (VST) and its camera OmegaCAM at ESO's Paranal Observatory, shows a triplet of bright galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). But the ...

The many infrared 'personalities' of the Sculptor galaxy

Oct 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Sculptor galaxy is shown in different infrared hues, in this new mosaic from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The main picture is a composite of infrared light captured ...

A spiral galaxy that resembles our Milky Way

Jun 01, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESO astronomers have used the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope to capture an image of NGC 6744. This impressive spiral galaxy lies about 30 million light-years away in ...

A nearby galactic exemplar

Sep 08, 2010

ESO has released a spectacular new image of NGC 300, a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way, and located in the nearby Sculptor Group of galaxies. Taken with the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla ...

Recommended for you

The entropy of black holes

Sep 12, 2014

Yesterday I talked about black hole thermodynamics, specifically how you can write the laws of thermodynamics as laws about black holes. Central to the idea of thermodynamics is the property of entropy, which c ...

Modified theory of dark matter

Sep 12, 2014

Dark matter is an aspect of the universe we still don't fully understand. We have lots of evidence pointing to its existence (as I outlined in a series of posts a while back), and the best evidence we have point ...

Gaia discovers its first supernova

Sep 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —While scanning the sky to measure the positions and movements of stars in our Galaxy, Gaia has discovered its first stellar explosion in another galaxy far, far away.

Astronomers unveil secrets of giant elliptical galaxies

Sep 12, 2014

New findings of how giant elliptical galaxies move have been discovered by an international team of astronomers using the newly installed Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) ...

Exploring the cosmic X-ray background

Sep 12, 2014

You are likely familiar with the cosmic microwave background. This background is a thermal remnant of the big bang. Because of the expansion of the universe, this remnant energy has a temperature of about ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
1 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2011
Thanks for the story and the zoom video sequence.

How long was the observation time and how was it was decided that:

Luminous regions of ongoing star formation are spread throughout NGC 253, which is pumping out new stars at a furious pace ??


With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
www.omatumr.com/
http://myprofile....anuelo09