Small galaxy, big heart


Astronomers find there’s a lot going on in ESO 495-21.


ESA/Hubble, NASA

Nestled within this field of bright foreground stars lies ESO 495-21, a tiny galaxy with a big heart. While barely 3000 light-years across, a fraction of the size of the Milky Way, it is furiously forming huge numbers of stars.

There are also indicators for a supermassive black hole in its centre – an unusual component for a galaxy of its size.

Astronomers have studied bursts of activity within ESO 495-21 several times using the European Space Agency’s Hubble Space Telescope. This allows them to explore the galaxy’s multiple super star clusters – very dense regions only a few million years old and packed with massive stars.

Investigating the earliest stages of their evolution, they hope, will help us understand how massive stars form and change throughout the universe.

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