Daily Mail, By DAILY MAIL REPORTER, 28th October 2010
Displayed in all their exquisite detail, six spectacular galaxies are pictured more clearly that they ever have before.
All of them are beautiful examples of spiral galaxies and were captured in images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
The pictures were taken in infrared light, using the impressive power of the HAWK-I camera, and will help astronomers understand how the remarkable spiral patterns in galaxies form and evolve.
|The six galaxies have been captured using the HAWK camera at the VLT and show spiral galaxies in unprecedented detail. (Enlarge)|
HAWK-I is one of the newest and most powerful cameras on the VLT and is sensitive to infrared light, which means that much of the obscuring dust in the galaxies’ spiral arms becomes transparent to its detectors.
Because HAWK-I can study galaxies stripped bare of the confusing effects of dust and glowing gas it is ideal for studying the vast numbers of stars that make up spiral arms.
The first image shows NGC 5247, a spiral galaxy dominated by two huge arms, located 60–70 million light-years away. The galaxy lies face-on towards Earth, providing an excellent view of its pinwheel structure.
The galaxy in the second image is Messier 100, also known as NGC 4321, which was discovered in the 18th century. It is a fine example of a 'grand design' spiral galaxy — a class of galaxies with very prominent and well-defined spiral arms.
The third image is of NGC 1300, a spiral galaxy with arms extending from the ends of a spectacularly prominent central bar. It is considered a prototypical example of barred spiral galaxies and lies at a distance of about 65 million light-years, in the constellation of Eridanus (the River).
The spiral galaxy in the fourth image, NGC 4030, lies about 75 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Virgo. In 2007 Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut who doubles as an amateur astronomer, spotted a supernova — a stellar explosion that is briefly almost as bright as its host galaxy — going off in this galaxy.
The fifth image, NGC 2997, is a spiral galaxy roughly 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Antlia (the Air Pump). NGC 2997 is the brightest member of a group of galaxies of the same name in the Local Supercluster of galaxies. Our own Local Group, of which the Milky Way is a member, is itself also part of the Local Supercluster.
Last but not least, NGC 1232 is a beautiful galaxy some 65 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus The galaxy is classified as an intermediate spiral galaxy — somewhere between a barred and an unbarred spiral galaxy.
As this galactic gallery makes clear, HAWK-I lets us see the spiral structures in these six bright galaxies in exquisite detail and with a clarity that is only made possible by observing in the infrared.