Galactic fireworks: new ESO images reveal stunning features of nearby galaxies

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A handout photo made available by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) shows the nearby galaxy NGC 4254 taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).

NGC 4254 is a grand-design spiral galaxy located approximately 45 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices.

The image is a combination of observations conducted at different wavelengths of light to map stellar populations and warm gas.

The golden glows mainly correspond to clouds of ionised hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur gas, marking the presence of newly born stars, while the bluish regions in the background reveal the distribution of slightly older stars.

The image was taken as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) project, which is making high-resolution observations of nearby galaxies with telescopes operating across the electromagnetic spectrum.