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Beyond the Brim, Sombrero Galaxy’s Halo Suggests Turbulent Past

20 Feb 2020, 18:00 UTC
Beyond the Brim, Sombrero Galaxy’s Halo Suggests Turbulent Past NASA, Digital Sky Survey, P. Goudfrooij (STScI) and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Surprising new data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope suggests the smooth, settled "brim" of the Sombrero galaxy's disk may be concealing a turbulent past. Hubble's sharpness and sensitivity resolves tens of thousands of individual stars in the Sombrero's vast, extended halo, the region beyond a galaxy's central portion, typically made of older stars. These latest observations of the Sombrero are turning conventional theory on its head, showing only a tiny fraction of older, metal-poor stars in the halo, plus an unexpected abundance of metal-rich stars typically found only in a galaxy's disk, and the central bulge. Past major galaxy mergers are a possible explanation, though the stately Sombrero shows none of the messy evidence of a recent merger of massive galaxies.

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