ESO: Spiral Galaxies Stripped Bare

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ESO: Spiral Galaxies Stripped Bare

Post by bystander » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:48 pm

Spiral Galaxies Stripped Bare
ESO VLT HAWK-I | eso1042 | 27 Oct 2010
Six spectacular spiral galaxies are seen in a clear new light 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.

HAWK-I [1] is one of the newest and most powerful cameras on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). It is sensitive to infrared light, which means that much of the obscuring dust in the galaxies’ spiral arms becomes transparent to its detectors. Compared to the earlier, and still much-used, VLT infrared camera ISAAC, HAWK-I has sixteen times as many pixels to cover a much larger area of sky in one shot and, by using newer technology than ISAAC, it has a greater sensitivity to faint infrared radiation [2]. 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 six galaxies are part of a study of spiral structure led by Preben Grosbøl at ESO. These data were acquired to help understand the complex and subtle ways in which the stars in these systems form into such perfect spiral patterns.