Galaxy's 'Superbubble' Spawns Star-Forming Frenzy
The starburst galaxy NGC 1313, as imaged by the Gemini South 8-meter telescope in Chile using narrow-band filters in the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph. NGC 1313 has a well-defined bar with twisted, asymmetric spiral arms. While pronounced star formation appears along the outer reaches of both arms, it’s much stronger to the northeast (left on the new Gemini image). Other regions of star formation are nearby, especially to the southwest (right). Full Story.
CREDIT: Gemini Observatory
A new photo of a distant galaxy has revealed a frenzy of star formation driven by what scientists are calling a cosmic "superbubble."
The new image shows the starburst galaxy NGC 1313, which has been experience active star formation that astronomers have been at a loss to explain. Radio telescope observations suggest that the edge of an expanding "superbubble" is causing gas to pile up and spur the formation of stars.
"What triggered the superbubble is still a mystery. It would have required about a thousand supernovae to go off in the space of just a few million years, or else something punched its way through the disk and set it off like ripples in a pond," said Stuart Ryder, Australian Gemini Scientist at the Anglo-Australian Observatory, who has studied this galaxy extensively.
The unprecedented detail and clarity of the new image ? taken with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph on the Gemini South telescope ? reveals myriad bubbles, shock fronts, star clusters, and sites where massive stars are being born.
Multitudes of colorful glowing gas clouds can be seen in the new galaxy view. It was taken using the Gemini South telescope in Chile. [More galaxy photos.]
NGC 1313, a barred spiral galaxy about 15 million light-years away, is a particularly prolific star maker for its size and its relative remoteness from other galaxies.
The galaxy itself extends across about 50,000 light-years (about half the extent of the Milky Way) and is located in the direction of the far southern constellation Reticulum. One light-year is the distance that light can travel in one year ? about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km).Generally, starburst galaxies show some signs of interaction with another galaxy, and a close galactic encounter is usually responsible for sparking increased levels of star-birth activity. However, NGC 1313 is a neighborless "drifter," far away from any other packs of galaxies.
The cause of its deformed shape and high rate of star formation is not obvious. Astronomers speculate that nearby gas clouds may be falling into (or orbiting) the galaxy and this could be prompting localized starbursts.
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