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What is a Starburst Galaxy

A Starburst Galaxy is a galaxy that has about 103 times the number of star formations than a normal galaxy. With such a high incidence of star formation, it would mean that that the materials that are used for stars would be quickly depleted.

The stars that would be being created would be large O, B and A Type Blue giant stars which will live and die quick. Those stars would go supernova and create nebulas which will then go on to create future stars but not at the same rate.

Nearly all types of galaxies (Elliptical, Spherical, Lenticular and Irregular) can undergo a starburst so far as that certain conditions are met. It is possible our galaxy once had a starburst during its lifetime or could undergo a starburst.

Possible causes of Starbursts

Galaxy Collision of Influence

Something would have had to occur to cause the starburst to begin, an event such as a merger between two galaxies. The Antannae Galaxies are an example of a starburst galaxy. The Antennae Galaxies in the galaxy of Corvus is a good example of a starburst. The event that caused the sudden starburst has been the Cosmic Collision between the two galaxies.

In the future, we are talking billions of years down the line, the Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy are to collide, thereby creating the milkomeda galaxy. When they collide, there will most likely be a sudden burst of star forming as the stars and nebulas from each galaxy interact.

It does not necessarily require an actual collision between the two galaxies, simply passing by may be all that is necessary for the sudden burst. Whilst we are currently devouring the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, there is no sign of a sudden burst of star formations. Star formation our galaxy is about normal.

High Rate of Supernovas

A high rate of Supernovae exploding could cause the sudden starburst. When a star goes supernovae, it will affect any nebula within about 50 - 100 light years from its location. It is believed that our solar system was a nebula which got the kick it needed to turn into a solar system when a nearby star when supernova. One of the reasons why it is believed that it was a supernova is because of Uranium and other heavy materials which can only be created in the heat of a supernova explosion.

Active Galactic Nuclei

The Supermassive black hole at the centres of galaxies may seem docile and not doing anything but they can become active. Our Milky Way was at one time a quasar, ejecting material from the centre. If the direction is correct, these ejections could be fired at a gaseous region and kick off star formation.

Types of Starburst Galaxies

There are a few different types of Starburst galaxies and these are detailed below.

Wolf-Rayet Galaxies - These galaxies would have an above average number of wolf-rayet stars whose stellars winds will blow across the galaxy, creating or destroying other stars along the way.

Blue Compact Galaxy - Galaxies that contain large blue stars when they should be containing older redder stars. Colour is a sign of age in stars, the bluer the younger they are, the redder the older. Having be reignited, these older red stars have now become active blue stars. These galaxies are give-aways because they will contain older red stars.

Luminous Infrared Galaxies - Galaxies that are hard to spot because of gas and dust. They can be detected by infra-red telescopes which are not visible to the naked eye. These can contain multiple supermassive black holes.

List of Example Starburst Galaxies


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