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Penetrating a Starburst Galaxy
08.05.08
 
Galaxy NGC 253 as viewed from visible to infrared light.

Galaxy NGC 253 as viewed from visible to infrared light. This galaxy, called a starburst, is one of the most spectacularly resolved "barred" disk galaxies owing to its size, star formation activity, and proximity to the Milky Way galaxy (distance less than 15 million light-years). It illustrates the remarkable contrast between the visible and infrared windows: in visible light, the stars in and about the spiral arms are mostly hidden by nebulosity and dust, including the utterly invisible bar feature at the center. However, in infrared light, the spirals arms are clearly seen, including the bar feeding a compact starburst core. The dust mask of NGC 253 is stripped away at infrared wavelengths, revealing the underlying stellar structure. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, will be sensitive to both stellar structure and to sites of star formation in galaxies such as NGC 253.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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