Starburst! (We’re Not Talking Candy Here)

Well, maybe eye-candy.

A new Chandra X-ray Observatory image of Messier 82, or M82, shows the result of star formation on overdrive. M82 is located about 12 million light years from Earth and is the nearest place to us where the conditions are similar to those when the Universe was much younger with lots of stars forming.

M82 is a so-called starburst galaxy, where stars are forming at rates that are tens or even hundreds of times higher than in a normal galaxy. The burst of star birth may be caused by a close encounter or collision with another galaxy, which sends shock waves rushing through the galaxy. In the case of M82, astronomers think that a brush with its neighbor galaxy M81 millions of years ago set off this torrent of star formation.

Chandra images torrent of star formation

Image is a snippet. Visit the site for a larger version. (Credit: NASA/CXC/Wesleyan/R.Kilgard et al.)

“Eye candy” is unfair. Within that beautiful image is substantial science. Not to mention the hubris on a cosmic scale which sums up an entire seething galaxy as “eye candy.”

 

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