Galaxy NGC 4449
Science & Exploration

Stellar fireworks through Hubble’s eyes

03/07/2007 3128 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science

Nearly 12.5 million light-years away, in the dwarf galaxy NGC 4449, stellar fireworks on display have been captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

NGC 4449 belongs to a group of galaxies in the constellation Canes Venatici, ‘the Hunting Dogs’. Astronomers think that NGC 4449’s episode of star formation has been influenced by interactions with several of its neighbours. It is likely that the current widespread starburst was triggered by interaction or merger with a smaller companion.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys observed NGC 4449 in the visible (blue and green), infrared, and hydrogen-alpha regions of the spectrum.

Hundreds of thousands of vibrant blue and red stars are visible in this new image. Hot bluish white clusters of massive stars are scattered throughout the galaxy, interspersed with numerous dustier reddish regions where star formation is taking place. Massive, dark clouds of gas and dust are silhouetted against starlight.

NGC 4449 has been forming stars for thousands of millions of years, but is currently experiencing star formation at a much higher rate than in the past. This unusual explosive and intense activity qualifies as a starburst, meaning that at the current rate, the gas that feeds stellar production would run out in about a thousand million years.

Starbursts usually occur in the central regions of galaxies, but in NGC 4449 it is more widespread, since the youngest stars are present both in the nucleus and in streams surrounding the galaxy.

Panning on NGC 4449
Panning on NGC 4449

A galaxy-wide starburst such as that seen in NGC 4449 resembles primordial star-forming galaxies, which grew by merging with and accreting smaller stellar systems. Since it is close enough to be observed in detail, NGC 4449 is the ideal laboratory for the investigation of what may have occurred during galactic formation and evolution in the early Universe.

Notes for editors:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA.

This image was taken in November 2005 by an international science team led by Alessandra Aloisi of ESA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. Other team members include Francesca Annibali (STScI), Claus Leitherer (STScI), Jennifer Mack (STScI), Marco Sirianni (ESA/STScI), Monica Tosi, National Institute for Astrophysics Astronomical Observatory of Bologna (INAF-OAB), and Roeland van der Marel (STScI).

For more information:

Lars Lindberg Christensen, Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
E-mail: lars @ eso.org

Alessandra Aloisi, ESA/ Space Telescope Science Institute, USA
E-mail: aloisi @ stsci.edu

Ray Villard, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA
E-mail: villard @ stsci.edu

Related Links

The ring of dark matter
Science & Exploration

Hubble sees dark matter ring in a galaxy cluster

15/05/2007 2096 views 2 likes
Open item
Globular Cluster NGC 2808
Science & Exploration

Hubble sees multiple star generations in a globular cluster

02/05/2007 866 views 0 likes
Open item
Panorama of the Carina Nebula
Science & Exploration

Spectacular star birth pictures on Hubble’s 17th birthday

24/04/2007 2652 views 2 likes
Open item
Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672
Science & Exploration

Hubble’s view of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672

03/04/2007 1437 views 2 likes
Open item
'Comet Galaxy' being ripped apart by galaxy cluster
Science & Exploration

Hubble sees ‘Comet Galaxy’ being ripped apart by galaxy clu…

02/03/2007 1207 views 0 likes
Open item
Hubble's view of planetary nebula NGC 2440
Science & Exploration

The colourful demise of a Sun-like star

14/02/2007 883 views 0 likes
Open item
Hubble's view of N90 star-forming region
Science & Exploration

New stars shed light on the past

08/01/2007 3453 views 0 likes
Open item
3D distribution of dark matter in the Universe
Science & Exploration

First 3D map of the Universe’s dark matter scaffolding

07/01/2007 8951 views 6 likes
Open item
Spectacular view of V838 Monocerotis light echo
Science & Exploration

Latest views of the V838 Monocerotis light echo from Hubble

27/10/2006 2924 views 8 likes
Open item
Stellar sorting in globular cluster 47 Tucanae
Science & Exploration

Hubble yields direct proof of stellar sorting in a globular…

24/10/2006 841 views 0 likes
Open item
Hubble's view of the Antennae galaxies
Science & Exploration

Antennae galaxies’ fertile marriage

17/10/2006 2129 views 3 likes
Open item
Hubble's view of Spiderweb Galaxy
Science & Exploration

Flies in a spider’s web: galaxy caught in the making

12/10/2006 2735 views 2 likes
Open item

Related Links