The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a dazzling new view of a busy star birth factory.
The oddly shaped Minkowski Object, a dwarf galaxy, glows blue in the lower left of the image, while the elliptical galaxy NGC 541 glows brightly in the upper right corner. Minkowski’s object is star-studded, containing at least 20 million stellar objects, and it was heavily influenced by its larger neighbor, NASA officials wrote in a statement. (opens in a new tab) when the new Hubble Space Telescope image was released on May 23.
The dwarf galaxy is named after German-American astronomer Rudolph Minkowski, whose multidisciplinary work included examining the evolution of galaxies and defining two types of supernova, or star explosions.
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“The radio jet from NGC 541 likely caused stars to form in Minkowski’s object,” NASA officials said in the statement. This jet pushes against the gas surrounding the galaxy, compressing the gas until the molecules become energized or ionized.
“As the ionized gas returns from its higher energy state to a lower energy state, the energy leaves the cloud as radiation,” NASA added. “As the clouds cool, they collapse, giving rise to stars.”
NGC 541 is an elliptical galaxy that was likely created from the merger of two other galaxies, the agency said. Radio jets from the galaxy have been picked up by telescopes, showing the streams emerging from an accretion disk surrounding a black hole at the center of the galaxy.
The radio activity was likely triggered by debris from nearby meltdowns, NASA said. Overall, the occupied area was one of the reasons Hubble was tasked with examining the region to better understand the conditions under which star formation is triggered.
Hubble and a successor telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, are committed to better understanding how galaxies and stars form. Webb’s largest mirror and its location in deep space will allow it to observe some of the universe’s earliest galaxies, once Webb completes commissioning this summer.
Webb’s galaxy research will focus on topics including mergers, collisions, supermassive black holes and galactic types, according to NASA (opens in a new tab).