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News Release 14 of 964

August 27, 2014 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-37

NASA Telescopes Help Uncover Early Construction Phase of Giant Galaxy

August 27, 2014: The birth of massive galaxies, according to galaxy formation theories, begins with the buildup of a dense, compact core that is ablaze with the glow of millions of newly formed stars. Evidence of this early construction phase, however, has eluded astronomers until now. Astronomers identified a dense galactic core, dubbed "Sparky," using a combination of data from Hubble and Spitzer, other space telescopes, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Hubble photographed the emerging galaxy as it looked 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the birth of our universe in the big bang.

This illustration reveals the celestial fireworks deep inside the crowded core of a developing galaxy, as seen from a hypothetical planetary system. The sky is ablaze with the glow from nebulae, fledgling star clusters, and stars exploding as supernovae. The rapidly forming core may eventually become the heart of a mammoth galaxy similar to one of the giant elliptical galaxies seen today.

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Artist's Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay and G. Bacon (STScI)

Science Credit: NASA, ESA, E. Nelson and P. van Dokkum (Yale University), M. Franx (Leiden Observatory), G. Brammer (STScI), I. Momcheva (Yale University), N. Schreiber (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics), E. da Cunha (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy), L. Tacconi (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics), R. Bezanson (Steward Observatory/University of Arizona), A. Kirkpatrick (University of Massachusetts), J. Leja (Yale University), H.-W. Rix (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy), R. Skelton (South African Astronomical Observatory), A. van der Wel (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy), K. Whitaker (Goddard Space Flight Center), and S. Wuyts (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics)