NASAs Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular fireworks display in a small, nearby galaxy, which resembles a skyrocket.
A team of astronomers found that a firestorm of star birth is lighting up one end of the diminutive galaxy Kiso 5639.
The dwarf galaxy is shaped like a flattened pancake, but because it is tilted edge-on, it resembles a skyrocket, with a brilliant blazing head and a long, star-studded tail.
Astronomers suggested that the frenzied star birth is sparked by intergalactic gas raining on one end of the galaxy as it drifts through space.
“I think Kiso 5639 is a beautiful, up-close example of what must have been common long ago,Â” said lead researcher Debra Elmegreen of Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York.
“The current thinking is that galaxies in the early universe grow from accreting gas from the surrounding neighbourhood. ItÂ’s a stage that galaxies, including our Milky Way, must go through as they are growing up,Â” Elmegreen said.
Elmegreen used HubbleÂ’s Wide Field Camera 3 to conduct a detailed imaging study of Kiso 5639. The images in different filters reveal information about an object by dissecting its light into its component colours.
HubbleÂ’s crisp resolution helped Elmegreen and her team analyse the giant star-forming clumps in the galaxy and determine the masses and ages of the star clusters.
Hubble uncovered several dozen clusters of stars in the galaxyÂ’s star-forming head, which spans 2,700 light-years across.
These clusters have an average age of less than one million years and masses that are three to six times larger than those in the rest of the galaxy.
Other star formation is taking place throughout the galaxy but on a much smaller scale.