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.

November 18, 1996
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Unusual M82: The Cigar Galaxy
Credit and Copyright:
P. Challis (CfA), 1.2-m Telescope, Whipple Observatory

Explanation: Something strange happened to this galaxy, but what? M82 is a nearby galaxy in the group of galaxies dominated by itself, M81, and NGC 3077. M82 is thought by some to be limping away from a close encounter with M81. This galactic collision might have stirred up the inner stars and gas in M82, causing the unusual dark lanes of dust visible in the above photograph. M82 is a starburst galaxy with a very active center containing star clusters far brighter than any in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Tomorrow's picture: Fractal Interstellar Dust Up-Close

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