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Astronomy Picture of the Day
Search Results for "M81 OR "NGC 3031""




Found 61 items.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 April 15 – The Cigar Galaxy from Hubble and Webb
Explanation: Something strange happened to this galaxy, but what? Known as the Cigar Galaxy and cataloged as M82, red glowing gas and dust are being cast out from the center. Although this starburst galaxy was surely stirred up by a recent pass near its neighbor, large spiral galaxy M81, this doesn't fully explain the source of the red-glowing outwardly expanding gas and dust. Evidence indicates that this material is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind. In the featured images, a Hubble Space Telescope image in visible light is shown on the left, while a James Webb Space Telescope image of the central region in infrared light is shown on the right. Detailed inspection of the new Webb image shows, unexpectedly, that this red-glowing dust is associated with hot plasma. Research into the nature of this strange nearby galaxy will surely continue.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 August 2 – M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
Explanation: Why is the Cigar Galaxy billowing red smoke? M82, as this starburst 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 and dust, however. Evidence indicates that this gas and dust is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind. The dust particles are thought to originate in M82's interstellar medium and are actually similar in size to particles in cigar smoke. The featured photographic mosaic highlights a specific color of red light strongly emitted by ionized hydrogen gas, showing detailed filaments of this gas and dust. 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 the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 May 4 - The Galaxy, the Jet, and a Famous Black Hole
Explanation: Bright elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87) is home to the supermassive black hole captured in 2017 by planet Earth's Event Horizon Telescope in the first ever image of a black hole. Giant of the Virgo galaxy cluster about 55 million light-years away, M87 is the large galaxy rendered in blue hues in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space telescope. Though M87 appears mostly featureless and cloud-like, the Spitzer image does record details of relativistic jets blasting from the galaxy's central region. Shown in the inset at top right, the jets themselves span thousands of light-years. The brighter jet seen on the right is approaching and close to our line of sight. Opposite, the shock created by the otherwise unseen receding jet lights up a fainter arc of material. Inset at bottom right, the historic black hole image is shown in context, at the center of giant galaxy and relativistic jets. Completely unresolved in the Spitzer image, the supermassive black hole surrounded by infalling material is the source of enormous energy driving the relativistic jets from the center of active galaxy M87. The Event Horizon Telescope image of M87 has now been enhanced to reveal a sharper view of the famous supermassive black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 January 20 - Galaxy Wars: M81 and M82
Explanation: The two dominant galaxies near center are far far away, 12 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear. On the right, with grand spiral arms and bright yellow core is spiral galaxy M81. Also known as Bode's galaxy, M81 spans some 100,000 light-years. On the left is cigar-shaped irregular galaxy M82. The pair have been locked in gravitational combat for a billion years. Gravity from each galaxy has profoundly affected the other during a series of cosmic close encounters. Their last go-round lasted about 100 million years and likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. M82 was left with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic that the galaxy glows in X-rays. In the next few billion years, their continuing gravitational encounters will result in a merger, and a single galaxy will remain. This extragalactic scenario also includes other members of the interacting M81 galaxy group with NGC 3077 below and right of the large spiral, and NGC 2976 at upper right in the frame. Captured under dark night skies in the Austrian Alps, the foreground of the wide-field image is filled with integrated flux nebulae. Those faint, dusty interstellar clouds reflect starlight above the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 July 9 - M82: Starburst Galaxy with a Superwind
Explanation: M82 is a starburst galaxy with a superwind. In fact, through ensuing supernova explosions and powerful winds from massive stars, the burst of star formation in M82 is driving a prodigious outflow. Evidence for the superwind from the galaxy's central regions is clear in sharp telescopic snapshot. The composite image highlights emission from long outflow filaments of atomic hydrogen gas in reddish hues. Some of the gas in the superwind, enriched in heavy elements forged in the massive stars, will eventually escape into intergalactic space. Triggered by a close encounter with nearby large galaxy M81, the furious burst of star formation in M82 should last about 100 million years or so. Also known as the Cigar Galaxy for its elongated visual appearance, M82 is about 30,000 light-years across. It lies 12 million light-years away near the northern boundary of Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 April 15 - The Galaxy, the Jet, and a Famous Black Hole
Explanation: Bright elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87) is home to the supermassive black hole captured by planet Earth's Event Horizon Telescope in the first ever image of a black hole. Giant of the Virgo galaxy cluster about 55 million light-years away, M87 is the large galaxy rendered in blue hues in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space telescope. Though M87 appears mostly featureless and cloud-like, the Spitzer image does record details of relativistic jets blasting from the galaxy's central region. Shown in the inset at top right, the jets themselves span thousands of light-years. The brighter jet seen on the right is approaching and close to our line of sight. Opposite, the shock created by the otherwise unseen receding jet lights up a fainter arc of material. Inset at bottom right, the historic black hole image is shown in context, at the center of giant galaxy and relativistic jets. Completely unresolved in the Spitzer image, the supermassive black hole surrounded by infalling material is the source of enormous energy driving the relativistic jets from the center of active galaxy M87.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 March 12 - Messier 81
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful Messier 81. Also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's galaxy for its 18th century discoverer, this grand spiral can be found toward the northern constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The sharp, detailed telescopic view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, pinkish starforming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes. Some dust lanes actually run through the galactic disk (left of center), contrary to other prominent spiral features though. The errant dust lanes may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and the nearby galaxy M82 lurking outside of this frame. M81's faint, dwarf irregular satellite galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just below the large spiral. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded a well-determined distance for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 June 6 - Comet PanSTARRs and the Galaxies
Explanation: Comet PanSTARRs, C/2017 T2, shared this stunning telescopic field of view with galaxies M81 and M82 on May 22/23. Of course, the galaxies were some 12 million light-years distant and the comet about 14 light-minutes away, seen in planet Earth's sky toward the Big Dipper. A new visitor from the Oort Cloud, this Comet PanSTARRs was discovered in 2017 by the PanSTARRs survey telescope when the comet was over 1 light-hour from the Sun, almost as distant as the orbit of Saturn. With a beautiful coma and dust tail, this comet has been a solid northern hemisphere performer for telescope wielding comet watchers this May, following its closest approach to the Sun on May 4. In this deep image from dark California skies the outbound comet even seems to develop a short anti-tail as it leaves the inner Solar System.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 May 15 - Galaxy Wars: M81 and M82
Explanation: These two galaxies are far far away, 12 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear. On the left, with grand spiral arms and bright yellow core is spiral galaxy M81, some 100,000 light-years across. On the right marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. The pair have been locked in gravitational combat for a billion years. Gravity from each galaxy has profoundly affected the other during a series of cosmic close encounters. Their last go-round lasted about 100 million years and likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. M82 was left with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In the next few billion years, their continuing gravitational encounters will result in a merger, and a single galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 March 21 - Comet ATLAS and the Mighty Galaxies
Explanation: Comet ATLAS C/2019 Y4 was discovered by the NASA funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, the last comet discovery reported in 2019. Now growing brighter in northern night skies, the comet's pretty greenish coma is at the upper left of this telescopic skyview captured from a remotely operated observatory in New Mexico on March 18. At lower right are M81 and M82, well-known as large, gravitationally interacting galaxies. Seen through faint dust clouds above the Milky Way, the galaxy pair lies about 12 million light-years distant, toward the constellation Ursa Major. In bound Comet ATLAS is about 9 light-minutes from Earth, still beyond the orbit of Mars. The comet's elongated orbit is similar to orbit of the Great Comet of 1844 though, a trajectory that will return this comet to the inner Solar System in about 6,000 years. Comet ATLAS will reach a perihelion or closest approach to the Sun on May 31 inside the orbit of Mercury and may become a naked-eye comet in the coming days.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 July 23 - M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
Explanation: Why is the Cigar Galaxy billowing red smoke? M82, as this starburst 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 and dust, however. Evidence indicates that this gas and dust is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind. The dust particles are thought to originate in M82's interstellar medium and are actually similar in size to particles in cigar smoke. The featured photographic mosaic highlights a specific color of red light strongly emitted by ionized hydrogen gas, showing detailed filaments of this gas and dust. 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 the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 April 27 - The Galaxy, the Jet and the Black Hole
Explanation: Bright elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87) is home to the supermassive black hole captured by planet Earth's Event Horizon Telescope in the first ever image of a black hole. Giant of the Virgo galaxy cluster about 55 million light-years away, M87 is the large galaxy rendered in blue hues in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space telescope. Though M87 appears mostly featureless and cloud-like, the Spitzer image does record details of relativistic jets blasting from the galaxy's central region. Shown in the inset at top right, the jets themselves span thousands of light-years. The brighter jet seen on the right is approaching and close to our line of sight. Opposite, the shock created by the otherwise unseen receding jet lights up a fainter arc of material. Inset at bottom right, the historic black hole image is shown in context, at the center of giant galaxy and relativistic jets. Completely unresolved in the Spitzer image, the supermassive black hole surrounded by infalling material is the source of the enormous energy driving the relativistic jets from the center of active galaxy M87.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 April 17 - Messier 81
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful Messier 81. Also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's galaxy for its 18th century discoverer, this grand spiral can be found toward the northern constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The detailed telescopic view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, pink starforming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes. Some dust lanes actually run through the galactic disk (left of center), contrary to other prominent spiral features though. The errant dust lanes may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 September 17 - Bright Spiral Galaxy M81
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 June 27 - The M81 Galaxy Group through the Integrated Flux Nebula
Explanation: Distant galaxies and nearby nebulas highlight this deep image of the M81 Group of galaxies. First and foremost in this 80-exposure mosaic is the grand design spiral galaxy M81, the largest galaxy in the image, visible on the lower right. M81 is gravitationally interacting with M82 just above it, a large galaxy with an unusual halo of filamentary red-glowing gas. Around the image many other galaxies from the M81 Group of galaxies can be seen, as well as many foreground Milky Way stars. This whole galaxy menagerie is seen through the glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula (IFN), a vast and complex screen of diffuse gas and dust also in our Milky Way Galaxy. Details of the red and yellow IFN, digitally enhanced, were imaged by a new wide-field camera recently installed at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands of Spain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 February 21 - M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
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. Evidence indicates that this gas is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind. The featured photographic mosaic 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 the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 February 19 - NGC 2403 in Camelopardalis
Explanation: Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles another galaxy with an abundance of star forming regions that lies within our own local galaxy group, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this colorful galaxy portrait of NGC 2403 are in the foreground, within our own Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 February 3 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: In the lower left corner, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. In the upper right corner, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. This big battle is seen from Earth through the faint glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula, a little studied complex of diffuse gas and dust clouds in our Milky Way Galaxy. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 October 17 - Bright Spiral Galaxy M81
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. The grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed image reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, tell tale pinkish star forming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years. M81's dwarf companion galaxy Holmberg IX can be seen just above the large spiral.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 March 27 - NGC 2403 in Camelopardalis
Explanation: Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles another galaxy with an abundance of star forming regions that lies within our own local galaxy group, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this colorful galaxy portrait of NGC 2403 lie in the foreground, within our own Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 November 19 - Bright Spiral Galaxy M81
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 September 25 - M81 versus M82
Explanation: Here in the Milky Way galaxy we have astronomical front row seats as M81 and M82 face-off, a mere 12 million light-years away. Locked in a gravitational struggle for the past billion years or so, the two bright galaxies are captured in this deep telescopic snapshot, constructed from 25 hours of image data. Their most recent close encounter likely resulted in the enhanced spiral arms of M81 (left) and violent star forming regions in M82 so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. After repeated passes, in a few billion years only one galaxy will remain. From our perspective, this cosmic moment is seen through a foreground veil of the Milky Way's stars and clouds of dust. Faintly reflecting the foreground starlight, the pervasive dust clouds are relatively unexplored galactic cirrus, or integrated flux nebulae, only a few hundred light-years above the plane of the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 July 4 - M82: Starburst Galaxy with a Superwind
Explanation: Also known as the Cigar Galaxy for its elongated visual appearance, M82 is a starburst galaxy with a superwind. In fact, through ensuing supernova explosions and powerful winds from massive stars, the burst of star formation in M82 is driving a prodigious outflow. Evidence for the superwind from the galaxy's central regions is clear in this sharp telescopic snapshot. The composite image highlights emission from long outflow filaments of atomic hydrogen gas in reddish hues. Some of the gas in the superwind, enriched in heavy elements forged in the massive stars, will eventually escape into intergalactic space. Including narrow band image data in the deep exposure has revealed a faint feature dubbed the cap. Perched about 35,000 light-years above the galaxy at the upper left, the cap appears to be galactic halo material. The material has been ionized by the superwind shock or intense ultraviolet radiation from the young, massive stars in the galaxy's core. Triggered by a close encounter with nearby large galaxy M81, the furious burst of star formation in M82 should last about 100 million years or so. M82 is 12 million light-years distant, near the northern boundary of Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 April 16 - Grand Spiral Galaxy M81 and Arp's Loop
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy lies 11.8 million light-years away toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). The deep image of the region reveals details in the bright yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes. It also follows the expansive, arcing feature, known as Arp's loop, that seems to rise from the galaxy's disk at the upper right. Studied in the 1960s, Arp's loop has been thought to be a tidal tail, material pulled out of M81 by gravitational interaction with its large neighboring galaxy M82. But a subsequent investigation demonstrates that at least some of Arp's loop likely lies within our own galaxy. The loop's colors in visible and infrared light match the colors of pervasive clouds of dust, relatively unexplored galactic cirrus only a few hundred light-years above the plane of the Milky Way. Along with the Milky Way's stars, the dust clouds lie in the foreground of this remarkable view. M81's dwarf companion galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just above the large spiral. On the sky, this image spans about 0.5 degrees, about the size of the Full Moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 June 22 - IC 2574: Coddington's Nebula
Explanation: Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory, flaunting their young, bright, blue star clusters in beautiful, symmetric spiral arms. But small, irregular galaxies form stars too. In fact dwarf galaxy IC 2574 shows clear evidence of intense star forming activity in its telltale pinkish regions of glowing hydrogen gas. Just as in spiral galaxies, the turbulent star-forming regions in IC 2574 are churned by stellar winds and supernova explosions spewing material into the galaxy's interstellar medium and triggering further star formation. A mere 12 million light-years distant, IC 2574 is part of the M81 group of galaxies, seen toward the northern constellation Ursa Major. Also known as Coddington's Nebula, the lovely island universe is about 50,000 light-years across, discovered by American astronomer Edwin Coddington in 1898.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 March 26 - M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
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 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 the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 March 13 - The M81 Galaxy Group Through the Integrated Flux Nebula
Explanation: Large galaxies and faint nebulae highlight this deep image of the M81 Group of galaxies. First and foremost in the wide-angle 12-hour exposure is the grand design spiral galaxy M81, the largest galaxy visible in the image. M81 is gravitationally interacting with M82 just below it, a big galaxy with an unusual halo of filamentary red-glowing gas. Around the image many other galaxies from the M81 Group of galaxies can be seen, as well as a lucky satellite glint streaking across the image left. Together with other galaxy congregates including our Local Group of galaxies and the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, the M81 Group is part of the expansive Virgo Supercluster of Galaxies. This whole galaxy menagerie is seen through the faint glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula, a little studied complex of diffuse gas and dust clouds in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 October 6 - M82: Starburst Galaxy with a Superwind
Explanation: Also known as the Cigar Galaxy for its elongated visual appearance, M82 is a starburst galaxy with a superwind. In fact, through ensuing supernova explosions and powerful winds from massive stars, the burst of star formation in M82 is driving the prodigous outflow of material. Evidence for the superwind from the galaxy's central regions is clear in this sharp composite image, based on data from small telescopes on planet Earth. The composite highlights emission from filaments of atomic hydrogen gas in reddish hues. The filaments extend for over 10,000 light-years. Some of the gas in the superwind, enriched in heavy elements forged in the massive stars, will eventually escape into intergalactic space. Triggered by a close encounter with nearby large galaxy M81, the furious burst of star formation in M82 should last about 100 million years or so. M82 is 12 million light-years distant, near the northern boundary of Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 19 - M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
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 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 the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 9 - M81 and Arp's Loop
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky and similar in size to the Milky Way, big, beautiful spiral M81 lies 11.8 million light-years away in the northern constellation Ursa Major. This deep image of the region reveals details in the bright yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes. It also follows the expansive, arcing feature, known as Arp's loop, that seems to rise from the galaxy's disk at the right. Studied in the 1960s, Arp's loop has been thought to be a tidal tail, material pulled out of M81 by gravitational interaction with its large neighboring galaxy M82. But a recent investigation demonstrates that much of Arp's loop likely lies within our own galaxy. The loop's colors in visible and infrared light match the colors of pervasive clouds of dust, relatively unexplored galactic cirrus only a few hundred light-years above the plane of the Milky Way. Along with the Milky Way's stars, the dust clouds lie in the foreground of this remarkable view. M81's dwarf companion galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just above and left of the large spiral. On the sky, this image spans about 0.5 degrees, about the size of the Full Moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 March 24 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: On the right, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. On the left, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 June 27 - M81: Feeding a Black Hole
Explanation: This impressive color composite shows spiral galaxy M81 across the electromagnetic spectrum. It combines X-ray data (blue) from the Chandra Observatory, infrared data (pink) from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an ultraviolet image (purple) from the GALEX satellite, with a visible light (green) Hubble image. The inset highlights X-rays from some of M81's black holes, including black holes in binary star systems with about 10 times the mass of the sun, as well as the central, supermassive black hole of over 70 million solar masses. Comparing computer models of the giant black hole's energy output to the multiwavelength data suggests that feeding that monster is relatively simple -- energy and radiation is generated as material in the central region swirls inwards forming an accretion disk. In fact, the process otherwise appears to be just like the accretion process feeding M81's stellar mass black holes, even though the central black hole is millions of times more massive. M81 itself is about 70,000 light-years across and only 12 million light-years away in the northern constellation Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 May 13 - Ancient Craters of Southern Rhea
Explanation: Saturn's ragged moon Rhea has one of the oldest surfaces known. Estimated as changing little in the past billion years, Rhea shows craters so old they no longer appear round their edges have become compromised by more recent cratering. Like Earth's Moon, Rhea's rotation is locked on Saturn, and the above image shows part of Rhea's surface that always faces Saturn. Rhea's leading surface is more highly cratered than its trailing surface. Rhea is composed mostly of water-ice but is thought to include about 25 percent rock and metal. The above image was taken by the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Cassini swooped past Rhea last month and captured the above image from about 350,000 kilometers away. Rhea spans 1,500 kilometers making it Saturn's second largest moon after Titan. Several surface features on Rhea remain unexplained including large light patches like those seen near the image top.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 May 12 - The M81 Galaxy Group Through the Integrated Flux Nebula
Explanation: Large galaxies and faint nebulae highlight this deep image of the M81 Group of galaxies. First and foremost in the wide-angle 12-hour exposure is the grand design spiral galaxy M81, the largest galaxy visible in the image. M81 is gravitationally interacting with M82 just below it, a big galaxy with an unusual halo of filamentary red-glowing gas. Around the image many other galaxies from the M81 Group of galaxies can be seen. Together with other galaxy congregates including our Local Group of galaxies and the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, the M81 Group is part of the expansive Virgo Supercluster of Galaxies. This whole galaxy menagerie is seen through the faint glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula, a little studied complex of diffuse gas and dust clouds in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 March 25 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: On the left, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. On the right marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 May 29 - Bright Spiral Galaxy M81 from Hubble
Explanation: The Hubble Space Telescope has resolved individual stars in a spectacular new image of nearby spiral galaxy M81. The feat is similar to Edwin Hubble's historic images with the Mt. Wilson 100-inch Hooker Telescope in the 1920s that resolved stars in neighboring galaxy M31. Edwin Hubble was able to use individual Cepheid variable stars to show that M31 was not nearby swirling gas but rather an entire galaxy like our Milky Way Galaxy. This above image in visible light taken by the Hubble Space Telescope is being used in conjunction with images being taken in ultraviolet by Galex, infrared by Spitzer, and X-rays with Chandra to study how stars have formed and died over the history M81. Light takes about 12 million years to reach us from M81. M81 is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 May 15 - Bright Spiral Galaxy M81 in Ultraviolet from Galex
Explanation: Where are the hot stars in M81, one of the closest major spiral galaxies? To help find out, astronomers took a deep image in ultraviolet light of the sprawling spiral with the Earth-orbiting Galex telescope. Hot stars emit more ultraviolet than cool stars, and are frequently associated with young open clusters of stars and energetic star forming regions. Magnificent spiral galaxy M81, slightly smaller in size to our own Milky Way Galaxy, shows off its young stars in its winding spiral arms in the above image. Less than 100 million years old, the young stars are blue in the above false-color Galex image and seen to be well separated from the older yellowish stars of the galactic core. Visible above M81 is a satellite galaxy dubbed Holmberg IX. Studying the unexpectedly bright ultraviolet glow of this small irregular galaxy may help astronomers understand how the many satellites of our own Milky Way Galaxy developed. M81, visible through a small telescope, spans about 70,000 light years and lies about 12 million light years away toward the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 April 27 - M81 in Ursa Major
Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky and similar in size to the Milky Way, big, beautiful spiral M81 lies 11.8 million light-years away in the northern constellation Ursa Major. This remarkably deep image of the region reveals details in the bright yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes. Above M81 lies a dwarf companion galaxy, Holmberg IX, sporting a large, pinkish star-forming region near the top. While M81 and Holmberg IX are seen through a foreground of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, they are also seen here through a much fainter complex of dust clouds. The relatively unexplored clouds are likely only some hundreds of light-years distant and lie high above our galaxy's plane. Scattered through the image, especially at the the right, the dust clouds reflect the combined light of the Milky Way's stars and have been dubbed integrated flux nebulae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 April 5 - Asteroid and Galaxy
Explanation: Apollo class asteroid 2006 VV2 flashed past planet Earth in late March, approaching to within 3.4 million kilometers or about 8.8 times the Earth-Moon distance. Due to the proximity of its orbit to Earth and its estimated diameter of over 1 kilometer, 2006 VV2 is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. Telescopes large and small were trained on the much anticipated flyby, the closest for a known asteroid of comparable size until the year 2036. This composite telescopic view is from a series of images recorded over a period of about an hour on Mar. 28 from Vado, New Mexico. The asteroid begins near the center of the field and tracks down and to the left, apparently passing very near galaxy M81. Of course, along with its companion galaxy M82 on the right, M81 is really 12 million light years away, compared to the asteroid's range of a mere 15 light seconds.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 July 7 - Bright Galaxy M81
Explanation: Big and beautiful spiral galaxy M81 lies in the northern constellation Ursa Major. One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky, M81 is also home to the second brightest supernova seen in modern times. This superbly detailed view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, below and right of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 (aka NGC 3031) has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 25 - M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 15 - Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82
Explanation: In this stunning cosmic vista, galaxy M81 is on the left surrounded by blue spiral arms. On the right marked by massive gas and dust clouds, is M82. These two mammoth galaxies have been locked in gravitational combat for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 14 - Smoke from the Cigar Galaxy
Explanation: Very bright in infrared light, well-known starburst galaxy M82's popular name describes its suggestive shape seen at visible wavelengths - The Cigar Galaxy. Ironically, M82's fantastic appearance in this Spitzer Space Telescope image really is due to cosmic "smoke" - the infrared emission of exented dust features blown by stellar winds from M82's luminous, central star forming regions. The false-color view highlights a component of dust emission from complex carbon molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. PAHs are also seen in star forming regions throughout our own, much calmer, Milky Way Galaxy and are products of combustion on planet Earth. Likely triggered by interactions with nearby galaxy M81, M82's intense star formation activity appears to be blowing out immense clouds of dust and PAHs extending nearly 20,000 light-years both above and below the galactic plane. M82 is about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 September 10 - Supernova Survivor
Explanation: Beginning with a full view of beautiful spiral galaxy M81, follow the insets (left, bottom, then right) to zoom in on a real survivor. Seen at the center of the final field on the right is a star identified as the survivor of a cosmic cataclysm -- the supernova explosion of its companion star. Light from the cosmic blast, likely triggered by the core collapse of a star initially more than 10 times as massive as the Sun, first reached Earth over 10 years ago and was cataloged as supernova SN 1993J. Though the supernova itself is no longer visible, light-echoes from dust in the region can still be seen near the companion, the first known survivor of a supernova in a binary star system. Astronomers believe that a substantial transfer of material to the surviving companion star during the last few hundred years before the stellar explosion can explain peculiarities seen in this supernova. After supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud, SN 1993J in nearby M81 is the brightest supernova seen in modern times.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 December 30 - M81 and M82: GALEX Full Field
Explanation: Intriguing galaxy pair M81 and M82 shine in this full-field view from the orbiting GALEX observatory. GALEX - the Galaxy Evolution Explorer - scans the cosmos in ultraviolet light, a view that follows star formation and galaxy evolution through the Universe. Near the bottom, magnificent spiral galaxy M81, similar in size to our own Milky Way, shows off young stars in winding spiral arms. Less than 100 million years old, the young stars are blue in the false-color GALEX image and seen to be well separated from the older yellowish stars of the galactic core. But near the top, turbulent, irregular galaxy M82 shows the results of extreme rates of star birth and death. Supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars, contribute to a violent wind of material expelled from M82's central regions. The striking irregular and spiral galaxy pair are located only about 10 million light-years away in the northern constellation Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 June 1 - The Supergalactic Wind from Starburst Galaxy M82
Explanation: Star formation occurs at a faster pace in M82 -- a galaxy with about ten times the rate of massive star birth (and death) compared to our Milky Way. Winds from massive stars and blasts from supernova explosions have created a billowing cloud of expanding gas from this remarkable starburst galaxy. The above scientifically color-coded image highlights the complexity and origin of the plume by combining a wide field image from the WIYN Telescope in Arizona with a smaller high-resolution image from the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. M82's aspect in optical pictures has led to its popular moniker, the Cigar Galaxy. M82's burst of star formation was likely triggered a mere 100 million years ago in the latest of a series of bouts with neighboring large galaxy M81.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 February 12 - Supernova Survivor
Explanation: Beginning with a full view of beautiful spiral galaxy M81, follow the insets (left, bottom, then right) to zoom in on a real survivor. Seen at the center of the final field on the right is a star recently identified as the survivor of a cosmic cataclysm -- the supernova explosion of its companion star. Light from the cosmic blast, likely triggered by the core collapse of a star initially more than 10 times as massive as the Sun, first reached Earth over 10 years ago and was cataloged as supernova SN 1993J. Though the supernova itself is no longer visible, light-echoes from dust in the region can still be seen near the companion, the first known survivor of a supernova in a binary star system. Astronomers believe that a substantial transfer of material to the surviving companion star during the last few hundred years before the stellar explosion can explain peculiarities seen in this supernova. After supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud, SN 1993J in nearby M81 is the brightest supernova seen in modern times.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 November 23 - A Superwind from the Cigar Galaxy
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 recently released photograph from the new Subaru Telescope highlights the 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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 June 20 - Bright Galaxy M81
Explanation: Big and beautiful spiral galaxy M81, in the northern constellation Ursa Major, is one of the brightest galaxies visible in the skies of planet Earth. This superbly detailed view reveals its bright nucleus, grand spiral arms and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane runs straight through the disk, below and right of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 (aka NGC 3031) has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 March 12 - M82 After the Crash
Explanation: When did the Cigar Galaxy light up? Evidence indicates how M82, the Cigar Galaxy, became so bright and peculiar: it collided with neighboring galaxy M81. Astronomers become detectives, however, when trying to figure out when this collision occurred. Inspection of this and other Hubble Space Telescope images now indicate massive young globular star clusters were formed during the encounter. Stars in these clusters that are 600 million years old are just now exhausting their central hydrogen fuel, indicating that the Cigar Galaxy's brightening occurred just that long ago. M82 is located about 12 million light years away and visible with binoculars towards the constellation of Ursa Major. The star-field shown above spans about 10,000 light years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 April 21 - M82: Starburst in X-rays
Explanation: Star formation occurs at a faster pace in M82 -- a galaxy with about 10 times the rate of massive star birth (and death) compared to our Milky Way. Winds from massive stars and blasts from supernova explosions have created the expanding cloud of million degree gas filling the above Chandra X-ray Observatory image of this remarkable starburst galaxy. The false color image even resolves bright spots which are likely shocked supernova remnants and X-ray bright binary stars. Also observed as a radio galaxy and a bright celestial infrared source, M82's aspect in optical pictures has led to its popular moniker, the Cigar Galaxy. M82's burst of star formation was likely triggered a mere 100 million years ago in the latest of a series of bouts with another large galaxy, M81.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 April 4 - A Superwind from the Cigar Galaxy
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 recently released photograph from the new Subaru Telescope highlights the 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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 February 9 - Galaxy Wars: M81 Versus M82
Explanation: In the left corner, wearing a red nucleus surrounded by blue spiral arms, is M81. In the right corner, sporting light stars and dark dust lanes, is M82. These two mammoth galaxies have been locked in gravitational combat for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised circulating density waves rippling around M81 resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. M81, though, left M82 a messy pulp of exploded stars and colliding gas so violent it emits bright X-rays. In both galaxies, colliding gas has created a recent abundance of bright new stars. In a few billion years only one galaxy will remain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 15, 1998 - Unusual M82: The Cigar Galaxy
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 14, 1998 - A Spiral Galaxy Gallery
Explanation: A progression of beautiful spiral galaxies is illustrated above with three photographs from NASA's Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT). Flying above the Earth's obscuring layer of atmosphere on the Space Shuttle Columbia during the Astro-1 mission in 1990, UIT's cameras were able to image these distant spirals in the ultraviolet light produced by hot, young stars. These bright stars, newly condensed from gas and dust clouds, give away the location of the spiral arms they are born in. Because they are massive (many times the mass of the Sun), they are shortlived. Dying and fading before they move too far from their birth place they make excellent tracers of spiral structure. From left to right the galaxies are known as M33, M74, and M81 and have progressively more tightly wound spiral arms. Astronomers would classify these as Scd, Sc, and Sb type spirals using a galaxy classification scheme first worked out by Edwin Hubble.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 26, 1997 - M81 in True Color
Explanation: Here's is a spiral galaxy in true colors. Previously, M81 was shown in two colors only, but M81's real colors are just as dramatic. In the above picture, note how blue the spiral arms are - this indicates the presence of hot young stars and on-going star formation. Also note the yellow hue of the nucleus, indicating am ancient population of stars many billions of years old. M81 is actually a dominant member of a group of galaxies which includes M82 and several other galaxies. Unlike our Local Group of galaxies, large galaxies in the M81 group are actually colliding. It is possible that M81's interaction with M82 create the density waves which generate M81's spiral structure.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 18, 1996 - Unusual M82: The Cigar Galaxy
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 14, 1996 - M81 in True Color
Explanation: Here's what a spiral galaxy REALLY looks like. Yesterday, M81 was shown in two colors only, but here we see M81 at its most colorful. In the above picture, note how blue the spiral arms are - this indicates the presence of hot young stars and on-going star formation. Also note the yellow hue of the nucleus, possibly designating a population of older stars many billions of years old. M81 is actually a dominant member of a group of galaxies which includes M82 and several other galaxies. Unlike our Local Group of galaxies, large galaxies in the M81 group are actually colliding. It is possible that M81's interaction with M82 create the density waves which generate M81's spiral structure.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 13, 1996 - M81: A Bulging Spiral Galaxy
Explanation: Few stars are still forming in the old giant spiral galaxy M81. The blue regions in this picture - representing ultraviolet light - highlight regions of bright young stars and star formation and appear rare than in M74 and M33. The red regions - representing the visible light - show a large population of older, less massive stars. M81 is therefore classified as spiral galaxy type "Sab" on the Hubble Sequence of Galaxies. One distinguishing feature of these types of galaxies is the relatively large central bulge surrounding the center of the galaxy. A massive density wave circulates around the center of spiral galaxies. It is not well understood why the bulge of M81 glows as bright as it does in ultraviolet light. Speculation includes that this may be due to hot evolved stars such as those found in the ancient globular cluster Omega Centauri.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 9, 1996 - A Spiral Galaxy Gallery
Explanation: A progression of beautiful spiral galaxies is illustrated above with three photographs from NASA's Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT). Flying above the Earth's obscuring layer of atmosphere on the Space Shuttle Columbia during the Astro-1 mission in 1990, UIT's cameras were able to image these distant spirals in the ultraviolet light produced by hot, young stars. These bright stars, newly condensed from gas and dust clouds, give away the location of the spiral arms they are born in. Because they are massive (many times the mass of the Sun), they are shortlived. Dying and fading before they move too far from their birth place they make excellent tracers of spiral structure. From left to right the galaxies are known as M33, M74, and M81 and have progressively more tightly wound spiral arms. Astronomers would classify these as Scd, Sc, and Sb type spirals using a galaxy classification scheme first worked out by Edwin Hubble.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 3, 1995 - An X-ray Hot Supernova in M81
Explanation: In 1993, a star in the galaxy M81 exploded. Above is a picture of the hot material ejected by this supernova explosion. The picture was taken in X-rays with the Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA). Since M81 is a relatively nearby galaxy, it can be examined in close detail by observatories on or near the Earth. Since the Earth's atmosphere protects the surface from interstellar X-radiation, the above photo was taken from space. Studying the nature and distribution of the X-rays has allowed astronomers to determine the composition and temperature of the expanding supernova gas.


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