National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Starburst to Star Bust: Astronomers ID suspect behind dearth of high-mass galaxies

| Science

Alberto Bolatto of the University of Maryland in College Park and his colleagues used the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope and discovered billowing columns of cold, dense gas fleeing the disk of nearby starburst galaxy NGC 253. This study indicates that strong stellar radiation, winds of particles, and shocks induced by a number of supernova explosions drive the surrounding material away from the central part of the galaxy, leaving little fuel for the next generation of stars. This is an important finding in studying the evolution of galaxies and may help solve the mystery of the missing high-mass galaxies that theories predict should exist, but are conspicuously absent.

The study was published in the journal Nature on 25 July 2013.

Figure 1
Comparison picture of the nearby bright spiral galaxy NGC 253, showing the infrared view from ESO's VISTA Telescope (left) and a detailed new view of the cool gas outflows at millimeter wavelengths from ALMA (right).
ALMA carbon monoxide image of outflowing gas in NGC 253. Color represents the brightness of the emission (red is faint, purple is bright). The location of young star clusters is indicated by the star symbols, and arrows give an idea of the expanding motions. The dashed line illustrates the cone of the hot outflow seen in X-rays.


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