Cigar Galaxy

The Cigar Galaxy - M82 in Star-burst

12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major (which some of you may know as the Big Dipper!) lies a Star-Burst Galaxy known as the Cigar Galaxy. The Galaxy is undergoing a period of intense star formation known as a Star-Burst. It is thanks to this Star-Burst that the Cigar Galaxy is almost 5 times more luminous than our own Milky-way. The Hubble Telescope has discovered nearly 200 young star clusters in the processes of forming. Stars in most of these clusters are being born 10 times faster than across our entire milky-way!

Credit: NASA/IPAC & Hubble

Bright New Supernova Blows Up in Nearby M82, the Cigar Galaxy

Now here’s a supernova bright enough for even small telescope observers to see. And it’s in a bright galaxy in Ursa Major well placed for viewing during evening hours in the northern hemisphere. Doesn’t get much better than that! The new object was discovered last night by  S.J. Fossey; news of the outburst first appeared on the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams “Transient Objects Confirmation Page”

M82 is a bright, striking edge-on spiral galaxy bright enough to see in binoculars. Known as the Cigar or Starburst Galaxy because of its shape and a large, active starburst region in its core, it’s only 12 million light years from Earth and home to two previous supernovae in 2004 and 2008. Neither of those came anywhere close to the being as bright as the discovery, and it’s very possible the new object will become brighter yet.

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Credit: E. Guido, N. Howes, M. Nicolini.

Starburst Clumps in the Cigar Galaxy - M82

Stars in the Center of the Cigar Galaxy are being born 10 times faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy. These young stars are crammed into tiny but massive star clusters - lots of stars in a small place! These, in turn, congregate by the dozens to make the bright patches known as “starburst clumps”.

Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

M82, The Starburst Galaxy in Ursa Major

This irregular galaxy in Ursa Major suffers from severe core distortion as a result of interaction with its nearby neighbor M81. The distance between the centers of the two interacting galaxies is a mere 130,000 light years, with the pair being about 11 million light years from Earth.

About 100 million years ago tidal forces caused by the gravitational attraction of neighboring M81 triggered an intense region of starbirth in M82, tearing off the arms of this former spiral galaxy and unleashing a frenzy of star generation within its core. The birth of supermassive, short-lived stars gave rise to intense stellar winds and the spectacular demise of these giants in the form of supernovae explosions, providing the driving force for the plumes and filaments of hydrogen gas (red feature in above image) blasting out from the central region of the galaxy. These filaments extend outward for a staggering distance of nearly 10,000 light years from the center of the galaxy. Brown obscuring dust can also be seen entrained in this high velocity flow of gas emanating from the core area.

Credit: David M. Jurasevich

Closest supernova in 27 years may reveal fate of cosmos

An elderly star has lit up a cosmic cigar. Images of the galaxy M82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy, show the sudden appearance of a supernova, the brilliant explosion when a massive star dies. The event might offer new clues to dark energy and the ultimate fate of the universe.

The light from this explosion is reaching us from about 11.4 million light years away. That’s not as close to Earth as the current record holder, which appeared about 160,000 light years away in a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Still, that was in 1987 and the new supernova is the closest one we’ve spotted since then.

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BOOM! A new supernova has been found in the ‘Cigar Galaxy’ M82 in Ursa Major, roughly 12 million light years away.

And it looks like it might be a Type Ia supernova - these occur in binary star systems.

According to blog 'One Minute Astronomer’, seeing a new supernova is a bucket list item for many 'backyard stargazers’, and the science is being live tweeted as we speak! Check out Twitter hashtags #M82 and #supernova.

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M82 Galaxy with Supernova, in Infrared by sjrankin on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
The supernova SN 2014J is seen in this image near its peak brightness in the first week of February 2014. It appears as a faint star to the lower right of the central region of its host galaxy M82.

The new supernova is of a particular kind known as a Type Ia. This type of supernova results in the complete destruction of a white dwarf star-the small, dense, aged remnant of a typical star like our Sun. Two scenarios are theorized to give rise to Type Ia supernovas: In a binary star system, a white dwarf gravitationally pulls in matter from its companion star, accruing mass until the white dwarf crosses a critical threshold and blows up. Alternatively, two white dwarfs in a binary system spiral inward toward each other and eventually explosively collide.

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M82: Starburst galaxy with a superwind

Also known as the Cigar Galaxy for its elongated visual appearance, M82 is a starburst galaxy with a superwind. In fact, through ensuing supernova explosions and powerful winds from massive stars, the burst of star formation in M82 is driving a prodigious outflow of material. Evidence for the superwind from the galaxy’s central regions is clear in this sharp telescopic snapshot. The composite image highlights emission from long outflow filaments of atomic hydrogen gas in reddish hues. Some of the gas in the superwind, enriched in heavy elements forged in the massive stars, will eventually escape into intergalactic space. Triggered by a  close encounter with nearby large galaxy M81, the furious burst of star formation in M82 should last about 100 million years or so. M82 is 12 million light-years distant, near the northern boundary of Ursa Major.

Image credit: Ken Crawford (Rancho Del Sol Obs.)

A bright, new supernova has erupted in the nearby galaxy M82.  There is news this morning about a new Type Ia supernova that appeared overnight in the “nearby” galaxy M82, a mere 11 million light years away.  It has been seen to brighten rapidly from magnitude +17 to nearly +11.5, placing it already well within range of many backyard telescopes; the right image above, by Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes, and Martino Nicolini, made with a 0.5m (20-inch) remotely-operated telescope in New Mexico, clearly shows the supernova (circled).

A spectrum taken last night at Apache Point Observatory shows that it is “a Type Ia supernova with a Si II velocity of 20000 km/s.” The observers note the “supernova has a red continuum and deep Na D absorption.” That suggests a lot of foreground dust in M82 itself, which partially obscures the supernova’s light by scattering some of it out of the line of sight.  

The favored explanation for Type Ia supernovae involves a binary star system consisting of a white dwarf and an evolved star, like a red giant.  The strong gravity of the white dwarf siphons hydrogen gas away from the giant; if enough hydrogen accumulates on the white dwarf, a runaway nuclear reaction can take place.  That explosively ignites the hydrogen, completely destroying the white dwarf, and the resulting energy is released as light.  So, some 11 million years ago, this scenario played out in M82 and just today the light from that explosion reached Earth!

A back-of-the-envelope calculation by yours truly suggests that the new supernova could peak near magnitude +8, which would make it visible in binoculars from a dark-sky location.  However, given an unknown amount of light loss to dust, I think the more conservative estimate is about +10, within about one week.  Stay tuned!