Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B. F. Williams, L. C. Johnson (U. Washington), PHAT team, R. Gendler
To better understand what stars compose the Andromeda galaxy, a group of researchers studied the nearby spiral by composing the largest image ever taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The result, called the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT), involved thousands of observations, hundreds of fields, spanned about a third of the galaxy, and resolved over 100 million stars. In the featured composite image, the central part of the galaxy is seen on the far left, while a blue spiral arm is prominent on the right. The brightest stars, scattered over the frame, are actually Milky Way foreground stars. The PHAT data is being analyzed to better understand where and how stars have formed in M31 in contrast to our Milky Way Galaxy, and to identify and characterize Andromeda’s stellar clusters and obscuring dust.