When a galaxy known as M82 had a near-miss with its neighbour, it set off an explosive burst of star formation that sent plumes of hot gas tens of thousands of light years into space. Now a team of UK and American astronomers has discovered that these gas clouds are like the jets from a high pressure shower head.
Credits: Mark Westmoquette (UCL), Jay Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Linda Smith (UCL), WIYN/NSF, NASA/ESA
M82 – which astronomers call a “starburst galaxy” - is located at a distance of a bit more than 10 million light years from our own Milky Way. Dr. Linda Smith, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, UCL, explains: "M82 shows intense star formation packed in dense star clusters. This powers plumes of hot gas that extend for tens of thousands of light years above and below the starry plane of the galaxy. This cosmic hurricane is traveling at more than a million miles an hour into intergalactic space.”
Dr. Smith and her postgraduate student Mark Westmoquette, together with Jay Gallagher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have combined images taken with the ground-based WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, and pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope in near Earth orbit. This enabled them to produce a unique view of M82. "This approach allows us to combine the strength of WIYN to measure very faint diffuse emission with the superb sharpness of Hubble to obtain a full picture of the superwind emerging from M82," says Professor Gallagher.
Dr Linda J. Smith | alfa
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