Messier 82, the Cigar Galaxy   HOME INDEX BACK NEXT

Starburst galaxy in Ursa Major

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As galaxies go, Messier 82 is fairly close to us, about 12 million light years away.  Only a handful of galaxies are closer.  Sometimes called the Cigar Galaxy because of shape, it is classified as a starburst galaxy because it is forming new stars at a very high rate--perhaps 10 times as fast as our own galaxy. This rapid star formation is presumably due to the gravitational pull of nearby Messier 81, which is producing tidal forces that cause gases to condense into new stars. This long-duration photo gives the impression of intense activity in the central regions of the galaxy.

Even with a small telescope, the galaxy's elongated shape is readily visible.  With telescopes of larger aperture, such as my 18-inch Dobsonian, the irregularities in its outline and some of its larger internal features can be seen.  It is an interesting object to observe carefully.  With a low-power eyepiece, it can be seen in the same field of view as the spiral galaxy Messier 81, making a striking pair.

Magnitude 8.4
Apparent Size 11' x 5'
Distance (light yrs) 12 million
Right Ascension 9:55.8
Declination +69 41
Field of View 32' x 24'

Image details:  Exposure times of 175 minutes luminance, and 25 minutes each of red, green, and blue, taken with an SBIG ST-8300M imager and a 14" Meade LX850 telescope at f/5.5.

January 2016