Lady in Red: Andromeda Galaxy Shines in Spitzer's Eyes

Oct 14, 2005
Lady in Red: Andromeda Galaxy Shines in Spitzer's Eyes

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured a stunning infrared view of Messier 31, the famous spiral galaxy also known as Andromeda.

Image: The infrared Spitzer image reveals new insight into Andromeda's well-known ring of star formation. This ring appears to be split into two pieces, forming the hole to the lower right. These asymmetrical features may have been caused by interactions with satellite galaxies around Andromeda. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arozona

Andromeda is the most-studied galaxy outside our own Milky Way, yet Spitzer's sensitive infrared eyes have detected captivating new features, including bright, aging stars and a spiral arc in the center of the galaxy. The infrared image also reveals an off-centered ring of star formation and a hole in the galaxy's spiral disk of arms. These asymmetrical features may have been caused by interactions with the several satellite galaxies that surround Andromeda.

"Occasionally small satellite galaxies run straight through bigger galaxies," said Dr. Karl Gordon of the Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, lead investigator of the new observation. "It appears a little galaxy punched a hole through Andromeda's disk, much like a pebble breaks the surface of a pond."

Approximately 2.5 million light-years away, Andromeda is the closest spiral galaxy and is the only one visible to the naked eye. Unlike our Milky Way galaxy, which we view from the inside, Andromeda is studied from the outside. Astronomers believe that Andromeda and the Milky Way will eventually merge together.

Spitzer detects dust heated by stars in the galaxy. Its multiband imaging photometer's 24-micron detector recorded approximately 11,000 separate infrared snapshots over 18 hours to create the new comprehensive mosaic. This instrument's resolution and sensitivity is a vast improvement over previous infrared technologies, enabling scientists to trace the spiral structures within Andromeda to an unprecedented level of detail.

"In contrast to the smooth appearance of Andromeda at optical wavelengths, the Spitzer image reveals a well-defined nuclear bulge and a system of spiral arms," said Dr. Susan Stolovy, a co-investigator from the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

The galaxy's central bulge glows in the light emitted by warm dust from old, giant stars. Just outside the bulge, a system of inner spiral arms can be seen, and outside this, a well-known prominent ring of star formation.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Mars, Saturn and the claws of Scorpius

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

Jul 28, 2014

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Hubble eyes galaxy as it gets a cosmic hair ruffling

Aug 13, 2014

(Phys.org) —From objects as small as Newton's apple to those as large as a galaxy, no physical body is free from the stern bonds of gravity, as evidenced in this stunning picture captured by the Wide Field ...

Triangulum galaxy snapped by VST

Aug 06, 2014

The VLT Survey Telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured a beautifully detailed image of the galaxy Messier 33. This nearby spiral, the second closest large galaxy to our own galaxy, is ...

3D map shows dusty structure of the Milky Way

Jun 23, 2014

(Phys.org) —A team of international astronomers has created a detailed three-dimensional map of the dusty structure of the Milky Way – the star-studded bright disc of our own galaxy – as seen from Earth's ...

Image of M31 heralds the dawn of HSC's productivity

Aug 06, 2013

A stunning image of M31 captured by Subaru Telescope's Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) displays the fruits of international collaboration and technological sophistication aligned with cutting-edge science. In addition ...

Recommended for you

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

19 minutes ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

57 minutes ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Spectacular supernova's mysteries revealed

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —New research by a team of UK and European-based astronomers is helping to solve the mystery of what caused a spectacular supernova in a galaxy 11 million light years away, seen earlier this ...

Supernova seen in two lights

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra ...

User comments : 0