New telescope captures 'starburst' galaxy

Europe's state-of-the-art Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile has captured some of the most detailed images ever taken of a spiral galaxy, scientists said Friday. The Silver Coin Galaxy, known to scientists as NGC 253, gleams about 11.5 million light years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor. One light year is the distance that light travels in 365 Earth days, about 9.46 trillion kilometres or 5.87 trillion miles. NGC 253 is labelled a "starbust" gallery because it is a stellar nursery where super-hot young stars have ignited, forming what look like bright clumps dotting its spiral. The radiation streaming from these giant blue-white babies makes the surrounding hydrogen gas clouds glow green in the images captured by the telescope, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said in a statement. Silver Coin galaxy was discovered by the German-British astronomer Caroline Herschel -- sister of the famed astronomer William Herschel -- as she searched for comets in 1783. The stunning images were taken during the VLT Survey Telescopes verification phase, during which the 2.6 metre (8-feet, six-inch) instruments scientific performance is assessed before entering into full operation. The telescope is equipped with an enormous 268-megapixel camera called OmegaCAM. NGC 253 is visible with a good pair of binoculars as it is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky after the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest to our own Milky Way. The ESO, one of the worlds most productive astronomical observatories, is supported by 15 European countries. by Prashant Rao (c) 2011 AFP
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Source: AFP
Date: Dec 15, 2011