A red, metal-rich relic

Esahubble_potw1812a_1024

esahubble_potw1812a March 19th, 2018

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Beasley (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias)

This idyllic scene, packed with glowing galaxies, has something truly remarkable at its core: an untouched relic of the ancient Universe. This relic can be seen in the large galaxy at the centre of the frame, a lenticular galaxy named NGC 1277. This galaxy is a member of the famous Perseus Cluster one of the most massive objects in the known Universe, located some 220 million light-years from Earth. NGC 1277 has been dubbed a relic of the early Universe because all of its stars appear to have formed about 12 billion years ago. To put this in perspective, the Big Bang is thought to have happened 13.8 billion years ago. Teeming with billions of old, metal-rich stars, this galaxy is also home to many ancient globular clusters: spherical bundles of stars that orbit a galaxy like satellites. Uniquely, the globuar clusters of NGC 1277 are mostly red and metal-rich very different to the blue, metal-poor clusters usually seen around similarly-sized galaxies. In astronomy, a metal is any element heavier than hydrogen and helium; these heavier elements are fused together in the hot cores of massive stars and scattered throughout the Universe when these stars explode as they die. In this way, a stars metal content is related to its age: stars that form later contain greater amounts of metal-rich material, since previous generations of stars have enriched the cosmos from which they are born. Massive galaxies and their globular clusters are thought to form in two phases: first comes an early collapse accompanied by a giant burst of star formation, which forms red, metal-rich clusters, followed by a later accumulation of material, which brings in bluer, metal-poor material. The discovery of NGC 1277s red clusters confirms that the galaxy is a genuine antique that bypassed this second phase, raising important questions for scientists on how galaxies form and evolve: a hotly debated topic in modern astronomy. Link: NASA/STScI release

Image Source: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1812a/

Curator: ESA/Hubble, Garching bei München, Germany

Image Use Policy: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
NGC 1277
Subject - Local Universe
Galaxy » Type » Lenticular
Esahubble_potw1812a_1280
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ID
potw1812a
Subject Category
C.5.1.3  
Subject Name
NGC 1277
Credits
NASA, ESA, and M. Beasley (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias)
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1812a/
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
3954.0, 1988.0
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
ESA/Hubble
URL
http://www.spacetelescope.org
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2
City
Garching bei München
State/Province
Postal Code
D-85748
Country
Germany
Rights
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher
ESA/Hubble
Publisher ID
esahubble
Resource ID
potw1812a
Metadata Date
2018-03-14T08:51:48+01:00
Metadata Version
1.1
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