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HomeLifestyleWhat makes NASA’s image of M81 galaxy rare?

What makes NASA’s image of M81 galaxy rare?

NASA

has recently shared a stunning picture of the M81 spiral galaxy, a celestial body that has captivated both amateur and professional astronomers alike. Located approximately 12 million light-years away from Earth, M81 is a grand design

spiral galaxy

in the constellation

Ursa Major

. Its relative size and brightness make it a frequent target for astronomical observation.

It is also well-known for its striking spiral arms and luminous core, which have been subjects of study for astronomers for many years.
The new image of M81 is visible proof of the advancements made in space technology and observation. Captured using the

Spitzer Space Telescope

, this

infrared view

of the galaxy provides a unique perspective that is not possible with visible light alone. Infrared imaging allows astronomers to peer through the dust and gas that can obscure other wavelengths, offering a clearer view of the galaxy’s structure and composition.
The M81 spiral galaxy was first discovered by the German astronomer Johann Elert Bode in 1774. It is one of the brightest galaxies in the night sky, with an apparent magnitude of 6.8, making it easily visible through binoculars or a small telescope. The galaxy’s angular size on the sky is about the same as that of the Full Moon.
The

M81 galaxy

is similar to our

Milky Way

, but our favorable view provides a better picture of the typical architecture of spiral galaxies. The spiral arms of M81, which wind all the way down into the nucleus, are made up of young, bluish, hot stars formed in the past few million years. They also host a population of stars formed in an episode of star formation that started about 600 million years ago.

The image revealed the galaxy’s spiral arms in exquisite detail, with regions of star formation and intricate dust lanes winding towards the galactic center. The central bulge of the galaxy is particularly interesting to astronomers because it houses a supermassive black hole. This black hole, estimated to be 70 million times the mass of our Sun, is a powerful force that influences the dynamics of the galaxy.
Black holes are regions in space where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from it. The presence of a black hole at the center of M81 was deduced from the motion of stars and gas in its vicinity. These celestial objects orbit the black hole at high speeds, indicating the presence of an immense gravitational source.

M81 may be undergoing a surge of star formation along the spiral arms due to a close encounter it may have had with its nearby spiral galaxy NGC 3077 and a nearby starburst galaxy (M82) about 300 million years ago. Astronomers plan to use the Hubble image to study the star formation history of the galaxy and how this history relates to the neutron stars and black holes seen in X-ray observations of M81 with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

NGC 3077

The M81 galaxy might be going through some changes due to a close encounter with another galaxy NGC 3077 300 million years ago. Source: NASA

The stunning image of the M81 spiral galaxy shared by NASA not only provides a glimpse into the vastness and complexity of our universe but also serves as a testament to the advancements in astronomical observation and the collaborative efforts of astronomers worldwide.

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