The Very Large Telescope (VLT) has captured stunning images of radiant swirling patterns created by young stars located millions of light-years away.
Newly released breathtaking images, published on July 16, showcase the distinct components of various galaxies, allowing for precise determination of the positions of young stars as the surrounding gas heats up.
Young stars and the hot surrounding gas shine brightly like “firework” nebulae in the galaxies NGC 3627, NGC 1087, NGC 4254, NGC 1300, and NGC 4303. (Image: ESO/ALMA).
“This is the first study that analyzes individual star-forming units at multiple locations and environments within various types of galaxies. We can directly observe gas clouds forming stars, as well as young stars and their evolution through multiple stages,” emphasized the lead author of the study, Eric Emsellem from ESO.
Emsellem and his team utilized the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) attached to ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Atacama Desert of Chile to track “nascent” stars as they illuminate and heat the surrounding gas.
Combined with image data from the array of 66 telescopes at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), also situated in the Chilean desert, the research team could examine the galaxy regions where star formation processes are occurring. ALMA’s high-resolution observations are “particularly suited” for mapping gas clouds.
“The images obtained are truly magnificent, providing a colorful and spectacular view of star nurseries in nearby galaxies within the Milky Way’s strip. There are many mysteries we want to elucidate. Are stars typically born in specific regions of the host galaxy? If so, why? And after stars are born, how does their evolution affect the formation of new generations of stars?” shared co-author Kathryn Kreckel from Heidelberg University.
While these questions remain unanswered in this study, Kreckel hopes that the data they have collected can be used by future astronomers to further understand our universe’s energy sources. It also lays the foundation for observations with the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) of ESO, expected to commence operations later this decade, allowing for even more detailed views of star nurseries.