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The starburst irregular galaxy NGC 1313

Date created: 1992-01-17

Tags: galaxy, spiral

In visible light, NGC 1313 in the southern constellation of Reticulum seems to be dominated by scattered patches of star formation which give our picture a rather ragged appearance. The clouds of bluish stars seem to have burst into existence at random, without the normal trigger gravitational interaction or even a distinct spiral structure to provoke them. Star formation seems to have occurred in a series of irregular, self-sustaining bursts. However, a very deep image shows that the outer parts of galaxy are also very disturbed.

Seen with a radio telescope, the galaxy is rich in hydrogen, the raw material of stars, and the gas circulates around the centre of the galaxy in a well ordered way, apparently hardly affected by the starburst activity or other irregularities that so colour our visual impression of this unusual galaxy. NGC 1313 is at a distance of about 15 million light years, close enough for some of its brightest stars to be seen as individuals.

Photograph made from plates taken in January 1992.
Top left is NE. Image width is about 11 arc min.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory