Looking a Galaxy in the Eye

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The telescope technique of adaptive optics is rapidly advancing, allowing unprecedented ground-based views of distant galaxies, stars, and planets both inside and outside our Solar System. Adaptive optics reduces the greatest obstacle to a clear picture for telescopes viewing the sky from Earth: interference from our own planet’s atmosphere.

NGC 253, one of the brightest spiral galaxies in the sky, reveals its young, dusty stellar nurseries via observations from the WFI instrument, and detailed data from the NACO instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope and the ACS on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: European Southern Observatory

NGC 253, one of the brightest spiral galaxies in the sky, reveals its young, dusty stellar nurseries via observations from the WFI instrument, and detailed data from the NACO instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope and the ACS on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit: European Southern Observatory


Astronomers with the European Southern Observatory recently used adaptive optics to spot details in the core of NGC 253, one of the brightest and dustiest spiral galaxies in the sky. The new image shows that the core is packed with massive nurseries of young stars. The observations also suggest that the supermassive black hole at this galaxy’s center is similar to the one at the center of the Milky Way. Learning more details about our galactic neighbors allows researchers to better understand how our own galaxy compares to the crowd.