Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2006 April 25
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M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
Credit: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI / AURA)
Acknowledgement: M. Mountain (STScI), P. Puxley (NSF), J. Gallagher (U. Wisconsin)

Explanation: What's lighting up the Cigar Galaxy? M82, as this irregular galaxy is also known, was stirred up by a recent pass near large spiral galaxy M81. This doesn't fully explain the source of the red-glowing outwardly expanding gas, however. Recent evidence indicates that this gas is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic "superwind." The above photographic mosaic, released yesterday to commemorate the sixteenth anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, highlights a specific color of red light strongly emitted by ionized hydrogen gas, showing detailed filaments of this gas. The filaments extend for over 10,000 light years. The 12-million light-year distant Cigar Galaxy is the brightest galaxy in the sky in infrared light, and can be seen in visible light with a small telescope towards the constellation of Ursa Major.

Tomorrow's picture: crumbling comet approaches

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