There is something very strange about the distribution of stars in the triangle galaxy

There is something very strange about the distribution of stars in the triangle galaxy

There is something very strange about the distribution of stars in the triangle galaxy

After Andromeda and the Milky Way, the Triangle galaxy is the largest galaxy in our local group of galaxies. And it could take the title of weirdest based on a new analysis by astronomers. It appears that the youngest and oldest stellar populations are separated by age, creating a unique distribution but also a particular pattern in the appearance of the galaxy.

The galaxy is 61,000 light-years across. It has a rectangular distribution of stars in its center and two large, well-defined spiral arms. This is where the oldest stars are located, which make up most of the mass of the galaxy. But the brightest young stars are distributed in less defined spiral arms that extend around the two main ones. This is called a fluffy pattern because the tufts of these stars look like tufts of wool.

On the left is a composite image of the Triangle galaxy, made by overlaying individual images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of the PHATTER survey.  The distributions of old and young stars - center and right, respectively - in the PHATTER study area show contrasting structures in the Triangle.

The full Hubble composite image (left), the one showing only old stars (middle) and the one showing only young ones (right). Image credit: A. Smercina/MJ Durbin/J. Dalcanton/BF Williams/University of Washington/NASA/ESA

“The youngest stars and the oldest stars in the Triangle Galaxy – which we can separate using multiple wavelength filters on the Hubble Space Telescope are organized very differently,” Adam Smercina, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, said in a statement. ” It’s surprising. For many galaxies, such as the Milky Way and Andromeda, stars are distributed fairly consistently, regardless of their age. This is not the case with Triangle.

The sightings were part of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury Triangulum Extended Region – or PHATTER – survey. It took the space telescope 108 orbits to observe all the different sections of the galaxy in such detail, providing not only deep images of this neighboring galaxy, but also the age of its stars and their distribution.

“This was a largely unknown and hidden feature of the Triangle Galaxy that was very difficult to see without this kind of detailed study,” Smercina added.

We do not know why the stars are distributed like that. The team hopes to collect even more observations to help them understand the star formation history of this galaxy. This might give some insight into how the particular cast came about.

“One of the primary goals of the PHATTER survey was to generate the kind of detailed, high-resolution data on this prominent satellite galaxy that will allow us to examine its structure in depth, trace its formation history stars and compare what we see to theories of galaxy formation and evolution,” Smercina said. “We’re already finding surprises.”

These results were presented at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

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