YSU Astronomer Explores Star Creation Using the Hubble Telescope

An astronomer from Youngstown State University, Professor Patrick Durrell, is contributing to research on the formation and age of new stars in the universe. The team leverages the advanced imaging capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope to examine young clusters of stars born following galaxy mergers or collisions. The focus is on star clusters that form within long, tadpole-like ‘tails’ created when galaxies interact, collide, and sometimes merge. Large star clusters can develop when the gas in these tidal streamers collides.

Galaxy mergers or collisions are more frequent than commonly believed, notes Durrell. Hubble’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light and crispness have disclosed 425 clusters of nascent stars along these tails, akin to strings of holiday lights. Each cluster comprises as many as 1 million blue, newborn stars. The research discovered that these clusters are a mere 10 million years old, significantly young relative to the age of the universe. The clusters appear to be forming at the same rate along tails that extend for thousands of light-years.

The study, recently published, analyzed 12 tidal tails in seven different interacting galaxies, and one system, AM1054-325, is highlighted in a new color image release from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The inclusion of new images captured through ultraviolet filters has significantly aided in the detection and age determination of the star clusters that formed following galaxy collisions, as per Durrell.

Durrell has been a part of this team for over 15 years and has collaborated on various projects. He played a key role in this project from its inception, overseeing the technical planning of the Hubble Space Telescope observations. This research is a significant step in understanding the complexities of star formation and the effects of galaxy interactions on this process.

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