YSU Professor Studies Stars Formed after Galaxy Collisions

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Patrick Durrell, distinguished professor of astronomy at Youngstown State University, is part of a research team that used images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study young clusters of stars that formed in the aftermath of galaxy mergers or collisions.

“These galaxy mergers or collisions happen more often than people might think,” Durrell said. 

Using the advanced imaging capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, Durell, along with the research team of astronomers, used new and archival Hubble images in optical and ultraviolet light to study young star clusters that formed within the long tidal “tails” that form as a result of galaxies that interact, collide and, in some cases, merge. 

Large clusters of stars can form when the gas in the tidal streamers collide.

The recently published study featured analyses of 12 tidal tails in seven different interacting galaxies and one system, AM1054-325. It’s featured in a new color image release from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

“The addition of new images taken through ultraviolet filters really helped with the detection and age determination of the star clusters that formed in the wake of the galaxy collisions,” Durrell said.

The research found that these clusters are very young collisions – only 10 million years old – and they seem to be forming at the same rate along tails stretching for thousands of light-years.

Durrell has worked with this team for more than 15 years on various projects. He contributed to this project from the start and is responsible for overseeing the technical planning of the Hubble Space Telescope observations. Additionally, he participated in the photometric analyses of the brightnesses and colors of more than 400 star clusters found in the tidal debris.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore conducts Hubble and Webb science operations.

Pictured at top: Image via NASA, ESA, STScl and Jayanne English (University of Manitoba).

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.