Friday, July 22, 2011

The blue stars between us and our dusty red spiral galaxy neighbour - 22nd July 2011

Like insects trapped in a spider's web, these bright blue stars sit in our own Milky Way, between us and another spiral galaxy.

Captured in infrared light by Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope, this spectacular image reveals galaxy IC 342's bright patterns of dust.

At a distance of about ten million light-years from Earth, IC 342 is relatively close by galaxy standards.

However, our vantage point places it directly behind the disk of our own Milky Way.

The intervening dust makes it difficult to see in visible light, but infrared light penetrates this veil easily.

While stars in our own galaxy appear as blue/white dots, the blue haze is from IC 342's collective starlight. Red shows the dust structures, which contain clumps of new stars.

The centre of the galaxy, where one might look for a spider, is actually home to an enormous burst of star formation. Read more