Astronomy Picture of the Day

Smoke from the Cigar Galaxy

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Smoke from the Cigar Galaxy


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
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.

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