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

October 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: Giant black hole pair photobombs Andromeda galaxy

Related Stories

Giant black hole pair photobombs Andromeda galaxy

November 30, 2017

It seems like even black holes can't resist the temptation to insert themselves unannounced into photographs. A cosmic photobomb found as a background object in images of the nearby Andromeda galaxy has revealed what could ...

Cool, new views of Andromeda galaxy

January 29, 2013

(Phys.org)—Two new eye-catching views from the Herschel space observatory are fit for a princess. They show the elegant spiral galaxy Andromeda, named after the mythical Greek princess known for her beauty.

Hubble sees spiral in Andromeda

February 10, 2017

The Andromeda constellation is one of the 88 modern constellations and should not be confused with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. The Andromeda constellation is home to the pictured galaxy known as NGC 7640.

Recommended for you

Glacial moulin formation triggered by rapid lake drainage

January 18, 2018

Scientists are uncovering the mystery of how, where and when important glacial features called moulins form on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Moulins, vertical conduits that penetrate through the half-mile-deep ice, efficiently ...

Looking to the sun to create hydrogen fuel

January 18, 2018

When Lawrence Livermore scientist Tadashi Ogitsu leased a hydrogen fuel-cell car in 2017, he knew that his daily commute would change forever. There are no greenhouse gases that come out of the tailpipe, just a bit of water ...

A new, dynamic view of chromatin movements

January 18, 2018

In cells, proteins tightly package the long thread of DNA into pearl necklace-like complexes known as chromatin. Scientists at EPFL show for the first time how chromatin moves, answering longstanding questions about how its ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.