ALMA view of the Antennae Galaxies

The Antennae Galaxies (also known as NGC 4038 and 4039) are a pair of distorted colliding spiral galaxies about 70 million light-years away, in the constellation of Corvus (The Crow). This view shows an image of the galaxies made by ALMA, in two different wavelength ranges, during the observatory's early testing phase. 

Most of the ALMA test observations used to create this image were made using only twelve antennas working together — far fewer than will be used for the first science observations — and much closer together as well. Both of these factors make the new image just a taster of what is to come. As the observatory grows, the sharpness, speed, and quality of its observations will increase dramatically as more antennas become available and the array grows in size. This is nevertheless the best submillimetre-wavelength image ever taken of the Antennae Galaxies and opens a new window on the submillimetre Universe.

ALMA’s view shows us something that cannot be seen at visible or infrared wavelengths: the clouds of dense cold gas from which new stars form. The ALMA observations were made at specific wavelengths of millimetre and submillimetre light (ALMA bands 3 and 7), tuned to detect carbon monoxide molecules in the otherwise invisible hydrogen clouds, where new stars are
forming. 

Massive concentrations of gas are found not only in the hearts of the two galaxies, but also in the chaotic region where they are colliding. Here, the total amount of gas is billions of times the mass of the Sun — a rich reservoir of material for future generations of stars. Observations like these will be vital in helping us understand how galaxy collisions can trigger the birth of new stars. This is just one example of how ALMA reveals parts of the Universe that cannot be seen with visible-light and infrared telescopes.

Credit:

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

About the Image

Id:eso1137c
Type:Observation
Release date:3 October 2011, 11:30
Related releases:eso1137
Size:3375 x 3362 px

About the Object

Name:Antennae Galaxies, NGC 4038, NGC 4039
Type:• Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Interacting
• X - Galaxies
Distance:75 million light years
Constellation:Corvus

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Coordinates

Position (RA):12 1 52.99
Position (Dec):-18° 52' 36.10"
Field of view:2.93 x 2.92 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 29.9° right of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Millimeter
ALMA band 3
2.6 mmAtacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA band 7
870 μmAtacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA Band 7
870 μmAtacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA Band 7
870 μmAtacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA Band 3
2.6 mmAtacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

 

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