January 2009 — The thousand-ruby galaxy
The Wide Field Imager captured the intricate swirls of the spiral galaxy Messier 83, a smaller look-alike of our own Milky Way. The spiral arms are adorned with countless bright flourishes of ruby red light. These are huge clouds of glowing hydrogen gas. Ultraviolet radiation from newly born, massive stars is ionising the gas in these clouds, causing great regions of hydrogen to glow red. These star-forming areas contrast dramatically with the ethereal glow of older yellow stars near the galaxy’s central hub. Also shown is the delicate tracery of dark dust streams weaving throughout the arms of the galaxy.
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ESO (MPG/ESO 2.2 m WFI)