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Hubble spies a firestorm of star birth

Dark clouds of gas and dust bring out a sense of storminess in this region of active star formation in the elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, located 11 million light years from Earth.


The composite image was made with the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope, which spans wavelengths from ultraviolet through near infrared to reveal the vibrant glow of young, blue star clusters in regions normally obscured by dust.

The dustiness and warped shape of Centaurus A are evidence of a past collision and merger with another galaxy. Such smashups cause hydrogen gas clouds to compress, triggering a firestorm of star formation. These regions are visible as the red patches in this image, according on an image advisory.

The galaxy also harbors a supermassive black hole at its nucleus that ejects jets of high speed gas into space. Neither the supermassive black hole or the jets is visible in this image.

More about Centaurus A and galactic mergers:


John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).