The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new dazzling image of galaxy UGC 8091, showing it aglow like a festive holiday globe decorated with strings of pearls.
Overview of UGC 8091
UGC 8091 is an irregular dwarf galaxy located around 7 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. As described by the European Space Agency, UGC 8091 belongs to a group of galaxies called “M81 group,” which contains over three dozen identified galaxies.
At just over half the mass of the Milky Way, UGC 8091 is classified as a dwarf galaxy. Its shape is also quite irregular and messy, lacking the spiral arms characteristic of larger, well-formed galaxies.
Hubble’s Beautiful New Portrait
On December 16, 2022, Hubble captured a new view of UGC 8091 using its Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). As Hubble scientists describe, the image shows the galaxy “aglow like a holiday wreath adorned with newly formed stars.”
The young, blue stars stand out especially brightly, clustered together in pearl string-like formations. These areas shine in stark contrast to the rest of the galaxy’s reddish glow from older stars.
Behind the Festive Look
So what accounts for UGC 8091’s distinct festive look? As NASA explains, bursts of star formation have recently occurred in pockets of dense gas littered throughout the galaxy. These give UGC 8091 its beaded, pearl-like strands shining more brightly than the rest.
Over time, these bright areas will likely dim and redden as the newborn stars age. But for now, they provide a beautiful glimpse of ongoing stellar nurseries within a messy, still-evolving dwarf galaxy.
Future of UGC 8091
Dwarf galaxies like UGC 8091 are believed to resemble some of the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang. Studying them offers a unique window into galaxy origins and evolution.
Located near the Milky Way, UGC 8091 also continues being shaped by gravitational encounters. It provides an example of the stellar births and transformations that may have once occurred more often within our own Milky Way’s ancestry.
As explained by Smithsonian Magazine, UGC 8091 passed close by our galaxy about 300 million years ago. Such an encounter can trigger increased star formation.
While older reddish stars dominate UGC 8091’s overall mass, the newborn blue stars and star-forming regions captured by Hubble show the galaxy continues evolving. As gas pockets collapse and ignite into stellar nurseries, new stars emerge that build UGC 8091’s next generation.
Significance of New Hubble Image
Hubble’s new holiday portrait provides both a festive seasonal image and valuable scientific insights. As emphasized by the Space Telescope Science Institute:
“At first glance this image may seem wholly decorative, but Hubble’s science mission takes center stage with this festive foreground galaxy.”
By capturing both old and newly birthed stars across an irregular dwarf galaxy, Hubble reveals stellar lifecycles beyond our Milky Way. UGC 8091’s bright blue pockets indicate stars still actively form even in small, messy galaxies – illuminating ongoing cosmic evolution.
Information compiled from below outlets on December 26, 2023:
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