The Hubble Telescope Completes an Impressive-Looking Ultraviolet Map of Nearby Galaxies
For all the time we've spent looking up into space, we still don't know a whole lot about our local cosmic neighborhood outside the Milky Way.
To help us gain a slightly better understanding of our galactic neighbors, an international team of astronomers is using data from the Hubble Space Telescope to form the "Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey" project, or LEGUS for short. The goal is to assemble photos taken in lots of different ways (visible light, ultraviolet, etc.) for 50 local galaxies surrounding our own.
It seems to be off to a great start so far, as you can see some striking images put together for six nearby galaxies which have been compiled. See it below:
The data looks at stars, star clusters, and other quirks of their environment that could impact it in some way, and the selected galaxies come from anywhere between 11 million to 58 million lightyears from Earth. If that doesn't sound like a "neighbor" to you, remember that even the closest galaxy to us, Andromeda, is still 2.5 million lightyears away.
And while there is certainly data on many of these galaxies out there already, the inclusion of ultraviolet views gives a lot of room to study them in new ways. The team spent over a year using one of Hubble's cameras to take visible and ultraviolet photos of the chosen galaxies, adding in some archival photos when necessary and focusing in on specific star clusters.
According to survey leader Daniela Calzetti of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who said the following in a press release from NASA (who helps manage Hubble):
The goal is to eventually learn more about how stars form. Looking at nearby stars in the Milky Way can be handy (the nearest star to our sun is only 4 lightyears away), but it helps to get some more data from outside. Those stars are just sitting there, so why not, right?