Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

Meet your cos­mic neigh­bours: im­ages assem­bled by an in­ter­na­tional team of re­searchers us­ing data from NASA’s Hubble Space Tele­scope show the clos­est gal­ax­ies to Earth in un­prece­dented de­tail.

Dubbed the Legacy Ex­traGalac­tic UV Sur­vey (LEGUS), the project com­bined data from ob­ser­va­tions in vis­i­ble and UV light of 50 star-form­ing spiral and dwarf gal­ax­ies in the lo­cal Uni­verse, rang­ing from 11 to 58 mil­lion lightyears away. The re­sult­ing cat­a­logue will pro­vide re­searchers with a large and ex­ten­sive re­source for un­der­stand­ing the com­plex­i­ties of star for­ma­tion and gal­axy evo­lu­tion, the team said.

“Much of the light we get from the Uni­verse comes from stars, and yet we still don’t un­der­stand many as­pects of how stars form,” said team mem­ber Elena Sabbi of the Space Tele­scope Sci­ence In­sti­tute in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. “This is even key to our ex­is­tence – we know life wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have a star around.”

The team mem­bers chose the gal­ax­ies based on their mass, star-for­ma­tion rate, and abun­dance of el­e­ments that are heav­ier than hy­dro­gen and he­lium. The re­sult­ing cat­a­logue con­tains around 8,000 star clus­ters rang­ing from 1 to 500 mil­lion years old, and around 39 mil­lion stars rang­ing from 1 mil­lion to sev­eral bil­lion years old.

“By see­ing gal­ax­ies in very fine de­tail – the star clus­ters – while also show­ing the con­nec­tion to the larger struc­tures, we are try­ing to iden­tify the physical pa­ram­e­ters un­der­ly­ing this or­der­ing of stel­lar pop­u­la­tions within gal­ax­ies,” said sur­vey leader Daniela Calzetti of the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts, Amherst. “Get­ting the fi­nal link be­tween gas and star for­ma­tion is key for un­der­stand­ing gal­axy evo­lu­tion.” See the im­ages at

These new im­ages of our clos­est gal­ax­ies could help ex­plain how stars form

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