Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cosmic 'Leaf Blower' Robs Galaxy of Star-Making Fuel

The Beginning of the End of Star Formation Time is running out for the galaxy NGC 3801, seen in this composite image combining light from across the spectrum, ranging from ultraviolet to radio. NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer and other instruments have helped catch the galaxy NGC 3801 in the act of destroying its cold, gaseous fuel for new stars. Astronomers believe this marks the beginning of its transition from a vigorous spiral galaxy to a quiescent elliptical galaxy whose star-forming days are long past. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SDSS/NRAO/ASIAA
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April 03, 2012
Supernova explosions and the jets of a monstrous black hole are scattering a galaxy's star-making gas like a cosmic leaf blower, a new study finds. The findings, which relied on ultraviolet observations from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer and a host of other instruments, fill an important gap in the current understanding of galactic evolution.

It has long been known that gas-rich spiral galaxies like our Milky Way smash together to create elliptical galaxies such as the one observed in the study. These big, round galaxies have very little star formation. The reddish glow of aging stars comes to dominate the complexion of elliptical galaxies, so astronomers refer to them as "red and dead."
MORE: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-094&cid=release_2012-094&msource=12094


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