Hubble Spies Cosmic ‘Halos’ Around Starburst Galaxies
Star formation involves more than meets the eye. Huge “starbursts” that give birth to hundreds of millions of new stars at once within galaxies all over the universe seem to affect their host galaxies in surprising ways, a new study reveals.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope found that the extreme winds created by rapid star formation can be felt up to 650,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy, much farther than previously thought, Hubble mission scientists said in a statement today (April 25). Winds from the starbursts actually form halos that reach about 20 times farther into space than the visible size of the galaxy.
"The extended material around galaxies is hard to study, as it’s so faint," study team member Vivienne Wild of the University of St. Andrews. "But it’s important — these envelopes of cool gas hold vital clues about how galaxies grow, process mass and energy, and finally die. We’re exploring a new frontier in galaxy evolution!"
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The illustration above, based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the messy, chaotic halo surrounding an active galaxy undergoing bursts of star formation. CREDIT: ESA, NASA, L. Calçada