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New observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile have given astronomers the best view yet of how vigorous star formation can blast gas out of a galaxy and starve future generations of stars of the fuel they need to form and grow. Dramatic new images show enormous outflows of molecular gas ejected by star-forming regions in the nearby Sculptor Galaxy. These new results help to explain the strange paucity of very massive galaxies in the Universe. The study was published in the journal Nature on 25 July 2013.

The Sculptor Galaxy, also known as NGC 253, is a spiral galaxy located in the southern constellation of Sculptor. Lying at a distance of around 11.5 million light-years from our Solar System it is one of our closer intergalactic neighbors, and one of the closest ‘starburst galaxies,’ those which produce at an exceptionally high rate. Using ALMA, astronomers have discovered billowing columns of cold, dense gas fleeing from the center of the galactic disc. These results may help to explain why astronomers have found surprisingly few high-mass galaxies throughout the cosmos.

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Erik Rosolowsky

See the full ESO press release here, including links to more images and movies.

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