Hubble offers a look into 30 million light-years away

Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1512 in many wavelengths.


NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s broad spectral vision recently shares a glimpse of the magnificent barred spiral galaxy NGC 1512, located 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Horologium.

Hubble captures the image of the galaxy at all wavelengths, from ultraviolet to infrared. The galaxy that spans 70,000 light-years is bright enough to be seen with amateur telescopes.

The galaxy’s unique core is a 2,400 light-year-wide circle of infant star clusters.

While sharing the view of the galaxy on Twitter, Hubble noted, “The 2,400 light-year-wide circle of infant star clusters is called a ‘circumnuclear’ starburst ring.”

Thanks to Hubble’s sharp vision and its unique wavelength coverage, a team of Israeli and American astronomers performed one of the broadest and most detailed studies ever of such star-forming regions.

The results reveal that NGC 1512 has star clusters that exist in both dusty and clean environments. The clean clusters are readily seen in ultraviolet and visible light, appearing as bright, blue clumps in the image. However, the dusty clusters are revealed only by the glow of the gas clouds in which they are hidden, as detected in red and infrared wavelengths by the Hubble cameras. This glow can be seen as red light permeating the dark, dusty lanes in the ring.

Dan Maoz, who headed the collaboration, said, “The dust obscuration of clusters appears to be an on-off phenomenon. The clusters are either completely hidden, enshrouded in their birth clouds, or almost completely exposed.”

Aaron Barth, a co-investigator on the team, adds“It is remarkable how similar the properties of this starburst are to those of other nearby starbursts that have been studied in detail with Hubble. This similarity gives us hope that they can better interpret observations of very distant and faint starburst galaxies by understanding the processes occurring in nearby galaxies. Such distant galaxies formed the first generations of stars when the universe was a fraction of its current age.”

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