Looking Up: Something Old, Something New...

Sep 18, 2017

Something pink and something blue... Nearby NGC 6822, also known as Barnard's Galaxy. About 7,000 light-years across, the dwarf irregular galaxy is seen to be filled with young blue stars and mottled with the telltale pinkish hydrogen glow of star forming regions in the deep color composite image.
Credit Stephen Leshin, Collaboration: Deidre Hunter and LARI / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up Hal introduces us to one of our galactic neighbors - Barnards' Galaxy.

Do you live in a small town that is seeing lots of new things being built all the time? If so, you have a lot in common with a tiny galaxy that is our neighbor in space, the remarkable Barnard’s Galaxy. 

This very small dwarf galaxy only has about 10 million stars. It was discovered by, can you guess? E.E. Barnard in 1884, using only a six inch refractor telescope. And this little gem is high in the southern Colorado sky right now.

What makes it so interesting is the range of stars it has in its little area. There are lots and lots of baby stars – with at least 150 regions where stars are being born, many under 4 million years old. But here is where it gets weird – there are also super old stars, in globular clusters, around Barnard’s Galaxy. Some have been dated to – get this - nearly as old as the universe itself, at nearly 14 billion years old. It appears that this little galaxy that could, is generating massive clusters of new stars now, and has been since nearly the dawn of time itself. So glance up at Barnard’s Galaxy in the constellation Sagittarius tonight, and contemplate some of the oldest and youngest things out there. Pretty cool for something named Barnard.

If you’d like to take a closer look at any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.