Andromeda Galaxy Hubble Image hs-2015-02-a

Andromeda Galaxy Hubble Image hs-2015-02-a

To better understand what stars compose the Andromeda galaxy, a group of researchers studied the nearby spiral by composing the largest image ever taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The result, called the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT), involved thousands of observations, hundreds of fields, spanned about a third of the galaxy, and resolved over 100 million stars. In the featured composite image, the central part of the galaxy is seen on the far left, while a blue spiral arm is prominent on the right.

The brightest stars, scattered over the frame, are actually Milky Way foreground stars. The PHAT data is being analyzed to better understand where and how stars have formed in M31 in contrast to our Milky Way Galaxy, and to identify and characterize Andromeda’s stellar clusters and obscuring dust.

Though the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light-years from Earth, it is our galactic next-door neighbor on the universal scale. The Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disk. It’s like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand. And there are lots of stars in this sweeping view – over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.

Image Credits: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and L.C. Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team, and R. Gendler. This is a resized image. You can see the HD image on the NASA website

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