A galaxy blazes with star formation

September 06, 2001

Most galaxies form new stars at a fairly slow rate, but members of a rare class known as "starburst" galaxies blaze with extremely active star formation. Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are perfecting a technique to determine the history of starburst activity in galaxies by using the colors of star clusters. Measuring the clusters' colors yields information about stellar temperatures. Since young stars are blue, and older stars redder, the colors can be related to the ages, somewhat similar to counting the rings in a fallen tree trunk in order to determine the tree's age.

The galaxy NGC 3310 is forming clusters of new stars at a prodigious rate. Astronomer Gerhardt Meurer of The Johns Hopkins University leads a team of collaborators who are studying several starburst galaxies, including NGC 3310, which is showcased in this month's Hubble Heritage image.

There are several hundred star clusters in NGC 3310, visible in the Heritage image as the bright blue diffuse objects that trace the galaxy's spiral arms. Each of these star clusters represents the formation of up to about a million stars, a process that takes less than 100,000 years. In addition, hundreds of individual young, luminous stars can be seen throughout the galaxy.

Once formed, the star clusters become redder with age as the most massive and bluest stars exhaust their fuel and burn out. Measurements in this image of the wide range of cluster colors show that they have ages ranging from about one million up to more than one hundred million years. This suggests that the starburst "turned on" over 100 million years ago. It may have been triggered when a companion galaxy collided with NGC 3310.

These observations may change astronomers' view of starbursts. Starbursts were once thought to be brief episodes, resulting from catastrophic events like a galactic collision. However, the wide range of cluster ages in NGC 3310 suggests that the starbursting can continue for an extended interval, once triggered.

Located in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, NGC 3310 has a distance of about 59 million light-years. Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 was used to make observations of NGC 3310 in March 1997 and again in September 2000. The color rendition of the combined images was created by the Hubble Heritage Team.
-end-
Image Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: G.R. Meurer and T.M. Heckman (JHU), C. Leitherer, J. Harris and D. Calzetti (STScI), and M. Sirianni (JHU)

NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information, please contact Dr. Gerhardt R. Meurer, The Johns Hopkins University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Baltimore, MD, 21218 (phone) 410-516-5154, (fax) 410-516-8260, (e-mail) meurer@pha.jhu.edu or

Dr. Keith Noll, Hubble Heritage Team, Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, (phone) 410-338-1828, (fax) 410-338-4579, (e-mail) noll@stsci.edu.

Electronic images and additional information are available at: http://heritage.stsci.edu and
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/2001/26 and via links in
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html
http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html
http://hubble.stsci.edu/go/news

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

To receive STScI press releases electronically, send an Internet electronic mail message to public-request@stsci.edu. Leave the subject line blank, and type the word subscribe in the body of the message. The system will respond with a confirmation of the subscription, and you will receive new press releases as they are issued. Please subscribe using the email account with which you would like to receive list messages. To unsubscribe, send mail to public-request@stsci.edu. Leave the subject line blank, and type the word unsubscribe in the body of the message. Please unsubscribe using the email account that you used to subscribe to the list.

Space Telescope Science Institute

Related Star Clusters Articles from Brightsurf:

Most isolated massive stars are kicked out of their clusters
A pair of University of Michigan studies reveals how some massive stars -- stars eight or more times the mass of our sun--become isolated in the universe: most often, their star clusters kick them out.

Star clusters are only the tip of the iceberg
Star clusters have been part of the Imaginarium of human civilization for millennia.

Small quake clusters can't hide from AI
A deep learning algorithm developed at Rice University analyzes data from a deadly landslide in Greenland to show how it may someday predict seismic events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Countries group into clusters as COVID-19 outbreak spreads
Mathematicians based in Australia and China have developed a method to analyze the large amount of data accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exploring mass dependence in electron-hole clusters
A study published in EPJ B reveals that the behaviour of one type of three-particle cluster displays a distinct relationship with the ratio between the masses of its particles.

Scientists discover pulsating remains of a star in an eclipsing double star system
Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered a pulsating ancient star in a double star system, which will allow them to access important information on the history of how stars like our Sun evolve and eventually die.

Study identifies regional malnutrition clusters across India
Childhood malnutrition in India remains a major problem. A new study shows that the problem is concentrated in specific geographic areas, which could help policymakers working to address the issue.

How fruit flies flock together in orderly clusters
Opposing desires to congregate and maintain some personal space drive fruit flies to form orderly clusters, according to a study published today in eLife.

Star fruit could be the new 'star' of Florida agriculture
Cover crops may increase sustainability of carambola groves.

Thousands of new globular clusters have formed over the last billion years
A discovery made by prestigious researchers including Thomas Broadhurst, the professor at the UPV/EHU's Department of Theoretical Physics and History of Science, has been recently published by the journal Nature Astronomy.

Read More: Star Clusters News and Star Clusters Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.