July 25, 2006A new map offers a sneak peek into our next- door neighbor's backyard. In this case, the neighbor lives 2.5 million light-years awaya stone's throw, as galaxies go.
The map (left) details the Andromeda galaxy's gas cloudsbirthplaces of new stars. The galaxy (pictured at right) contains a trillion stars and is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own spiral, the Milky Way. (Related photo: Andromeda, the "cannibal" galaxy, fattens up.)
Andromeda contains enough hydrogen gas clouds to form 360 million new suns, according to analysis of the new map, which is based on observations by a 98-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) radio dish in Granada, Spain. The map and an accompanying study appeared in the mid-July issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
"It's fabulous," said astronomer Mark H. Heyer of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "Not only do they see the whole [galaxy], but they can also start seeing the details [of each gas cloud]."
And, Heyer noted, "Those regions are important, because that's where new stars are either currently forming or will soon form."
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