Cosmic fireworks for Independence Day

A spectacular photo of stellar fireworks taken by the Hubble space telescope is released today – just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Galaxy NGC 4449The eye in the sky was able to pick out hundreds of thousand of individual red and blue stars in NGC 4449, a galaxy lying nearly 12.5 million light-years away.

The city of stars is a so-called dwarf galaxy, much smaller than the giant spirals like M31 in Andromeda that are spread right across the universe.

Bursts of star formation are visible right across NGC 4449. There are hot blue-white clusters of massive stars interspersed with countless dusty, red, cosmic nurseries where stars are being born. See the detailed close-up of part of the star cloud.

The galaxy, found in the constellation of Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, is experiencing a much higher stellar birthrate now than in the past, say Hubble astronomers led by Alessandra Aloisi.

close up of stars in galaxySuch starbursts normally occur in the central regions of galaxies, but it is happening right across the galaxy in NGC 4449.

The team that recorded this image in November 2005, using Hubble’s now crippled Advanced Camera for Surveys, say that their target makes an ideal laboratory in which to study what may have occurred as galaxies formed an evolved in the early universe.

The current explosive rate of star formation may have been affected by NGC 4449’s interactions with neighbouring galaxies. Hubble has previously helped capture star formation in a much closer cradle of creation, the Great Orion Nebula. And of course, it also been a witness to the deaths of stars.

Photo: NASA, ESA, A. Aloisi (ESA/STScI) and The Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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