PHOTO IN THE NEWS: "Star-Maker Machine" Galaxy Found

Galaxy Image
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July 11, 2008—A newfound starburst galaxy dubbed "Baby Boom"—the green and yellow center of the composite image above—is churning out a startling 4,000 new stars a year, scientists say.

Our Milky Way galaxy, by comparison, produces an average of just ten new stars a year.

The baby boom galaxy has been captured in its youth, appearing in telescopes as it was when the universe was only 1.3 billion years along in its 13.7 billion-year history, say authors of a study led by Peter Capak of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The galaxy appears to challenge the reigning model of galaxy formation, which posits a gradual merging of young galaxies over time, they said.

"This galaxy is undergoing a major baby boom, producing most of its stars all at once," Capak said in a press statement.

The work appeared this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

But Cedric Lacey, an astrophysicist Durham University in U.K., who was not affiliated with the study, said a single galaxy does not offer enough information to debunk the prevailing theory.

He said life stages of many more galaxies must be observed and that "better telescopes" and "better spatial resolution" will be needed to get an inside look at the mechanics of galaxy formation.

—Anne Minard

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