Hubble Captures the Heart of Star Birth

Hubble Captures the Heart of Star Birth
From the Hubble Space Telescope
NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) captured a flurry of star birth near the heart of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1808.  This image provides a close-up view of the galaxy's center and its vigorous star formation. NGC 1808 may have had a close interaction with another nearby galaxy, NGC 1792. Such an interaction could have hurled gas towards the nucleus of NGC 1808, triggering the exceptionally high rate of star birth seen in the WFPC2 image which is a composite of images using colored filters in the visible and infrared as well as light from glowing hydrogen. The red and infrared light (seen as yellow) highlight older stars, while hydrogen (seen as blue) reveals areas of star birth. Colors were assigned to this false-color image to emphasize the vigorous star formation taking place around the galaxy's center.
NGC 1808 is a barred spiral galaxy with straight lines of star formation on both sides of the bright nucleus. This star formation may have been triggered by the rotation of the bar, or by matter which is streaming along the bar towards the central region (and feeding the star burst). Filaments of dust are being ejected from the core into a faint halo of stars surrounding the galaxy's disk (towards the upper left corner) by massive stars that have exploded as supernovae in the star burst region. The portion of the galaxy seen in this "wide-field" image is about 35,000 light-years across. The star clusters (blue) can be seen (and many more are likely obscured) amid thick lanes of gas and dust. This image shows that stars are often born in compact clusters within star bursts, and that dense gas and dust heavily obscures the star burst region. The brightest knot of star birth seen here is probably a giant cluster of stars, about 100 light-years in diameter, at the very center of the galaxy. The other star clusters are about 10 to 50 light-years in diameter. The entire star burst region shown here is about 3,000 light-years across.
Image Title: Hubble Captures the Heart of Star Birth
based on press release for PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC98-12
Credit: Jim Flood, an amateur astronomer affiliated with Sperry Observatory at Union College in New Jersey, and Max Mutchler, a member of the Space Telescope Science Institute staff who volunteered to work with Jim.

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 Last Modified On: Saturday, December 16, 2000