Credit: Pedro Rodriguez and ESA
How active does a galaxy have to be before it's an active galaxy? Messier 82, sometimes called the Cigar Galaxy, is one of the most active star forming galaxies known. The enormous rate of star formation (about 10 times higher than the Milky Way's birthrate of about 7 stars per year) is driven by the gravitational interaction with its neighbor, M81. The tug of gravity as the two galaxies rub elbows causes clouds of gas near the center of M82 to collapse and form stars, in a process that's still not fully understood. The image above is a beautiful montage of images from the XMM-Newton Observatory in the optical through the UV to the X-ray regime, created in celebration of this, the International Year of Astronomy, and as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy cornerstone project. The disk of the galaxy is defined by the starlight in the optical and UV, while hot gas produced by the birth and death of stars is seen coming off the plane of the galaxy in the X-ray images.
Published: April 20, 2009
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Wednesday, 19-Mar-2014 21:29:31 EDT