See the Andromeda Galaxy in a Cool New Light

The ring-like swirls of cool dust filling the Andromeda galaxy stand out colorfully in these new images from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory.
ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/NHSC/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz

At 2 million light-years distant, Andromeda is the closest large spiral galaxy to the Milky Way -- it is also one of the most studied.

Now, with a little help from Europe's infrared space observatory Herschel, astronomers have been given the most intricate view yet of Andromeda's beautiful spiraling lanes of cool dust.

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In two new observations released Tuesday, warm interstellar dust can be seen collecting around Andromeda's galactic core. Star formation is underway in these regions.

Further out, away from the galactic nucleus, extremely cold dust -- some of it only a few tens of degrees warmer than absolute zero -- dominates. Star formation continues further away from the core, but at a much slower rate, highlighted by dusty knots embedded within the larger-scale rings.

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One of the new observations (shown here) is a mosaic of a combination of the space telescope's instruments. Data from Herschel's Photodetecting Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and spectral and photometric imaging receiver (SPIRE) highlight the most intense star-forming region (blue/white hues) whereas the darker reds and orange exhibit the coolest regions.

The second image uses only data from SPIRE, highlighting the longest wavelengths the instrument can detect.

For more information about these observations and high-resolution versions, visit the NASA JPL Herschel pages.

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