You may have spotted the Triangulum Galaxy-also known as Messier 33 or NGC 598-on a particularly clear night: it's that faint, blurry object in the constellation of Triangulum (the Triangle). Unlike other galaxies, dust is distributed throughout it. "Astronomers think that in the Local Group, Triangulum has been something of an introvert, isolated from frequent interactions with other galaxies while keeping busy producing stars along organized spiral arms", another statement said. By comparison, the Andromeda Galaxy is 200,000 light-years across and the Milky Way is 100,000 light-years in diameter.
Daniel Weisz, an assistant professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, was honored at this week's meeting of the American Astronomical Society for his early-career research on relatively nearby "dwarf" galaxies using the Hubble Space Telescope. The end result shows the central part of Triangulum and its inner spiral arms, including an estimated 10 to 15 million stars. Some 1500 light-years across, this is one of the largest, brightest concentrations of ionized hydrogen (H II) in our Local Group of galaxies, and it is a major center of star formation. The image of our cosmic neighbour is the second largest image ever created with Hubble data. "By counting up all the stars of different ages in a galaxy, it's possible to reconstruct a galaxy's star-formation history - that is, how many stars formed at a given time - over the entire history of the universe".
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He is looking forward to taking the first observations of the local universe with the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble that is scheduled for launch in 2021. New stars form at a rate of approximately one solar mass every two years.
Aside from size and appearance, the Triangulum Galaxy also lags behind Andromeda and Milky Way in terms of the number of stars they have.
The abundance of gas clouds in the Triangulum Galaxy is precisely what drew astronomers to conduct this detailed survey. Hubble's image shows two of the four brightest of these regions in the galaxy: NGC 595 and NGC 604.