July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Gemini North celebrates its 25th anniversary with a glorious photograph of NGC 4449

The starburst galaxy is packed with newborn stars fueled by its collision with at least two other galaxies.

On June 25, 1999, the 8.1 meters Gemini North Telescope The Gemini International Observatory, atop Maunakea, Hawaii, revealed its first light images. Since then, the telescope has scanned the universe with its twin, the Gemini South Telescope in Chile. The Gemini International Observatory, which consists of both telescopes together, has taken numerous pioneering images of the universe, including the first photograph of multiple planets orbiting another star.

The latest Gemini North image captured a stunning view of the irregular dwarf galaxy NGC 4449 (Caldwell 21). This galaxy, located 12.5 million light years away, in the constellation of Canes Venatici, is full of young stars. Although it has been doing so for billions of years, a recent increase in this activity is due to its interactions with at least two of its many neighboring galaxies.

NOIRLab posted the image to celebrate Gemini North's 25th anniversary.

Shining stars

Areas where stars are forming shine brightly in the image. The red regions show where there are large amounts of ionized hydrogen, which is an indicator of star formation.

NGC 4449's intense rate of star formation marks it as a starburst galaxy. Starbursts typically occur in the middle of galaxies, but NGC 4449 is an oddball. Its starburst activity occurs throughout the galaxy, as seen in widely spread baby stars.

Interactions with other nearby galaxies have fueled NGC 4449's starburst. Evidence of NGC 4449's voracious appetite in the past is the globular star cluster found in the galaxy's outer halo. Scientists suspect the star cluster is the remaining core of a satellite galaxy that is being absorbed.

At the current rate of star formation, NGC 4449's starburst is estimated to last for another billion years.

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