Friday, June 11, 2010

M82 - The Exploding Galaxy?

This is a pretty commonly imaged galaxy. It is also somewhat of a mystery. Nobody quite knows exactly what is happening with this galaxy. It emits massive amounts of radiation and energy, and for many years Astronomers thought it was "exploding" through some largely unknown process. Now that we can see it better with more advanced telescopes and imaging systems, the mystery only deepens. Visibly, it appears to be a very distorted spiral, seen edge-wise, but the center is almost obscured by vast clouds of Hydrogen gas that appear to be streaming out of it. On closer inspection (like, with the Hubble), it becomes debatable whether these clouds are in fact coming from the galaxy, and are simply situated in between us and M82. The fact remains that this galaxy is highly distorted by it's larger neighbor, Messier 81, and whatever is taking place is more than likely because of this distortion.

This galaxy has another close cousin, NGC 1275, which appears to be doing almost the very same thing, but is located in another region of the sky - however, it has no larger neighbor to distort it.

Image taken with my Canon DSLR using a Celestron 9.25" schmidt-cassegrain telescope at F6.3.
Eight 11 minute sub-exposures.