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Südafrika, Pressespiegel

17. März 2009

SA-led research uncovers secrets of the stars

Scientists say they have discovered exciting new evidence of the way stars, born in massive clouds of hot gas, settle into the patterns that form galaxies. The discovery of "streams of stars" in distant galaxies was made by an international team in which Wits University professor David Block was principal investigator.

Block said on Thursday that he and his colleagues had used high-resolution infrared images of galaxies millions of light years away, taken by the Spitzer space telescope, which is orbiting the Sun in the wake of the Earth.

The images were scanned for groups of stars using a mathematical technique called Fourier Transform analysis, then processed further.

The results showed "a multitude of stellar groups dispersing their members into space, sheared into tiny spirals by the surrounding rotation of the parent galaxy".
"I was stunned when I saw those star streams," Block said. "They were breathless, awesome."

The discovery would allow more detailed studies of how galactic disks converted massive gas clouds into smooth populations of stars.

"Why is this important?" Block said. "Well, the universe is made up of galaxies. Galaxies are building blocks. If there are holes in our understanding of how galaxies are made up, we can't understand the universe at large."

The group's findings will be published in this month's edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Sources: Sapa, SA Good News



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