M99, which lies about 42 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices, is a “grand design” spiral galaxy, so-called because of the well-defined, prominent spiral arms seen in this image.
Hubble’s Wide Field Camera captured M99 in two versions, helping astronomers study two completely different astronomical phenomena. The image above includes combined data from both sets of observations.
The first set of observations was aimed at studying the gap between two different types of cosmic explosions: neoplasms and supernovae. The interaction between white dwarfs and larger stars in binary systems leads to the formation of new stars.
They are much dimmer than supernovae, which mark the catastrophically violent death of massive stars. However, modern astronomical theories predict that sudden, fleeting events can occur that are between neoplasms and supernovae in brightness.
Although the event is shrouded in mystery and controversy, astronomers observed it in M99 and turned to Hubble’s keen eyesight to get a closer look and pinpoint the location of the vanishing source.
The second series of observations was part of a larger Hubble project to study the connections between young stars and the clouds of cold gas from which they form.
Hubble scanned 38 nearby galaxies, revealing clusters of hot young stars. The colossal Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope, consisting of 66 individual antennas located on the Atacama Desert plateau west of the Chilean Andes, also observed these 38 galaxies.
The combination of Hubble’s observations of young stars and ALMA’s observations of cold gas clouds will allow astronomers to delve deeper into the details of star formation and pave the way for future science studies with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.
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