M82, The (Exploding) Cigar Galaxy
M82 (NGC 3034), Magnitude 8.4 Ir (?) Galaxy, Size 9.0'x4.0', Constellation: Ursa Major.
M82 is without doubt one of the principal marvels of the northern sky. From a dark site, medium aperture telescopes can easily reveal the wealth of detail formed by the multitudinous dark lanes and bright patches. .
It's clear that something BAD has happened to this galaxy. 50 years ago, it was thought that M82 was "exploding." Now, we're pretty sure that the weird appearance comes from a bout of furious starburst activity brought on by a close encounter with another huge night bird. The question is, "which?" M81 seems the ideal candidate, but its normal appearance makes this answer suspect. Like so many other things in the night sky, the truth behind this enigma lying 12 million light years out and ago remains just that: a mystery...
My creative daughter Elizabeth says this one should be known as the "Exploding" Cigar...and who am I to argue?...
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