Washington: Astronomers have captured perhaps the most detailed wide-field view of nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253 using VLT Survey Telescope (VST).
They have also noted the widespread active star formation in the spiral galaxy and labeled it a “starburst” galaxy.
VST, the newest telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, provides broad views of the sky while also offering impressive image sharpness.
NGC 253 gleams about eleven and a half million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor. It is often just called the Sculptor Galaxy, although other descriptive names include the Silver Coin or Silver Dollar Galaxy.
It is easy to get a good look at NGC 253 through binoculars as it is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky after the Milky Way’s closest, big galactic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy.
The many bright clumps dotting the galaxy are stellar nurseries where hot young stars have just ignited. The radiation streaming from these giant blue-white babies makes the surrounding hydrogen gas clouds glow brightly (green in this image).
This nearby spiral galaxy was discovered by the German–British astronomer Caroline Herschel, the sister of the famed astronomer William Herschel, as she searched for comets in 1783.
This latest image of NGC 253 was taken during VST’s science verification phase — when the telescope’s scientific performance is assessed before it enters operations.
The VST data are being combined with infrared images from VISTA to identify the younger generations of stars in NGC 253.
Zooming into the new picture not only allows a very detailed inspection of the star-forming spiral arms of the galaxy to be made, but also reveals a very rich tapestry of much more distant galaxies far beyond NGC 253.