The latest observations of a specific region near the core of the Sculptor (NGC 253) galaxy, which is one of the closest and brightest as seen from the Earth, have revealed that the approximately 37 regions near its core are actively creating stars at a very high rate. Each of the regions contains an estimated 100,000 new massive stars, which are currently only emerging from their dust cocoons. Astronomers say that this is the main reason why Sculptor is so bright, and why it can be seen from the Earth using only amateur telescopes.
"We now think that these are probably very active nurseries that contain many stars bursting from their dusty cocoons," Jose Antonio Acosta-Pulido, a member of the research team based in Spain at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, says.
The group used many images for their research, including materials from the Very Large Telescope (VLT), owned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, as well as data from the Very Large Array and the Very Large Baseline Interferometer.
They also employed a technique called adaptive optics (AO), which allowed them to compensate for the optic effect that light filtering through our atmosphere took. This means that the astronomers were able to look at the galaxy using the most advanced Earth-based telescopes, as if they were in orbit. This allowed them to get pictures of a very high clarity, unlike any others they previously had access to.
In addition to discovering the source of Sculptor's extreme brightness, the astronomers were also puzzled to learn that the center of NGC 253 contained a slightly larger version of Sagittarius A, the radio source that can be found at the center of our galaxy, and which is believed to be near, around, or inside the massive black hole at the core.
"We have thus discovered what could be a twin of our Galaxy's Centre," Almudena Prieto, the co-author of a new study detailing the find, explains. The team says that the two black holes look like twins, and that they cannot account for why the inner regions of our galaxies do not go through the same processes.