A small galaxy, called Sextans A, is shown here in a multi-wavelength mosaic captured by the European Space Agency's Herschel mission, in which NASA is a partner, along with NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Jansky Very Large Array observatory near Socorro, New Mexico. The galaxy is located 4.5 million light-years from Earth in the Sextans constellation.
The environment in this galaxy is similar to that of our infant universe because it lacks in heavy metals, or elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. Heavy metals act in some ways like fertilizers for stars, helping them form and grow. Scientists study galaxies like Sextans A to learn how stars still manage to slowly bloom under these poor-growing conditions. The research provides a better understanding of how the very first stars in our universe came to be.
In this image, the purple shows gas; blue shows young stars and the orange and yellow dots are newly formed stars heating up dust.
Herschel is a European Space Agency mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. While the observatory stopped making science observations in April 2013, after running out of liquid coolant, as expected, scientists continue to analyze its data. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at JPL. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments, including HIFI. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the U.S. astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.