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Antennae Galaxies, side-by-side comparison of ALMA and VLT observations

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 a comparison of the millimetre and submillimetre light observations (left), made in two different wavelength ranges by ALMA during the observatory's early testing phase, with visible-light observations from the ESO Very Large Telescope. 

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. Even so, this is the best submillimetre-wavelength image ever taken of the Antennae Galaxies and opens a new window on the submillimetre Universe.

While visible light reveals the newborn stars in the galaxies, ALMA’s view shows us something that cannot be seen at those wavelengths: the clouds of dense cold gas from which new stars form. The ALMA observations — shown here in red, pink and yellow — 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 our Sun — a rich reservoir of material for future generations of stars. Observations like these will be vital in helping us understand how the collision of galaxies 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.

The ESO VLT image was produced using observational data found by Alberto Milani, who posted his image in the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group.

Credit:

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO). Visible light image: ESO/Alberto Milani.

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About the Image

Id:eso1137d
Type:Observation
Release date:3 October 2011, 11:30
Related releases:eso1137
Size:6742 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

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Large JPEG
4.0 MB
Screensize JPEG
83.8 KB

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Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Optical
B
435 nm Very Large Telescope
FORS1
Optical
V
550 nm Very Large Telescope
FORS1
Infrared
I
814 nm Very Large Telescope
FORS1
Optical
H-alpha + Nii
658 nm Very Large Telescope
FORS1
Millimeter
ALMA Band 3
2.6 mm Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA band 7
870 μm Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA band 7
870 μm Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA band 7
870 μm Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Millimeter
ALMA band 3
2.6 mm Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

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