THIS IMAGE OF THE CIGAR GALAXY—also known as Messier 82 (M82) or NGC 3034—was obtained using the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands.
M82 is an ‘starburst’ galaxy, whose centre is believed to be experiencing an episode of intense star formation. The red glow is from a ‘superwind’ of ionised hydrogen gas, expanding out from the centre as a result of the combined winds of many individual stars.
The galaxy lies 12 million light-years away from Earth, and its total brightness is roughly five times that of our Milky Way galaxy.
Studies using the Hubble Space Telescope have suggested that stars are being born within M82 at a rate ten times that of the Milky Way.
Previously thought to be an irregularly shaped galaxy, M82 is now known to be hiding two spiral arms.
X-ray emissions detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, indicate that M82 is home to an ‘intermediate mass’ black hole…the first one found anywhere. Intermediate means that it is much bigger than a black hole that has the mass of a single star, but much smaller than the ‘supermassive’ black holes that are thought to live at the cores of some galaxies (and which have masses equivalent to billions of stars).
The image is a colour composite made from data collected using red, green and blue filters.
The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) comprises the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT), the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT), and the 1.0m Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (JKT), operating on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain. The INT and JKT began scheduled use by the astronomical community in May 1984 and the WHT in August 1987.
The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes is operated on behalf of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Nederlanse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO), and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). The STFC, the NWO, and the IAC have entered into collaborative agreements for the operation of and the sharing of observing time on the ING telescopes.
Adapted from information issued by ING. Image credit: Pablo Rodríguez-Gil (IAC) and Pablo Bonet (IAC).
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