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News Release 10 of 33

November 18, 2010 09:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2010-38

Hubble Captures New Life in an Ancient Galaxy

November 18, 2010: Elliptical galaxies were once thought to be aging star cities whose star-making heyday was billions of years ago. But new observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are helping to show that elliptical galaxies still have some youthful vigor left, thanks to encounters with smaller galaxies.

Images of the core of NGC 4150, taken in near-ultraviolet light with the sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), reveal streamers of dust and gas and clumps of young, blue stars that are significantly less than a billion years old. Evidence shows that the star birth was sparked by a merger with a dwarf galaxy. The new study helps bolster the emerging view that most elliptical galaxies have young stars, bringing new life to old galaxies. In the large-scale image, the dark strands of dust in the center provide tentative evidence of a recent galaxy merger. The inset image shows a magnified view of the chaotic activity inside the galaxy's core. The blue areas indicate a flurry of recent star birth. The stellar breeding ground is about 1,300 light-years across. The stars in this area are less than a billion years old.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, R.M. Crockett (University of Oxford, U.K.), S. Kaviraj (Imperial College London and University of Oxford, U.K.), J. Silk (University of Oxford), M. Mutchler (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee