Image of the Week: Hot gas glowing in X-rays
19 Jun 2012
Located in the constellation Ursa Major at a distance of about 12 million light-years, it is the nearest and one of the most active starburst galaxies. This means it shows an exceptionally high rate of star formation. The gravitational interaction between M82 its neighbour, the spiral galaxy Messier 81, is the most probable cause for the violent starburst activity in its circumnuclear region.
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X-ray image of Messier 82.
The image shows plumes of hot gas glowing in X-rays bursting out of the galactic disk (in blue), resulting from very intense bursts of star formation in the circumnuclear region. It is composed of several different XMM-Newton observations of Messier 82, adding up to 52.5 hours of observing time in total.
The active star formation taking place in its interior and its effect on the gas and dust in its interstellar medium can be observed very well from Earth. This makes M82 is one of the best-studied galaxies in the sky.
XMM-Newton has been studying the universe in X-ray, optical and ultraviolet wavelengths simultaneously, since its launch in December 1999. The mission continues to run making it one of the European Space Agency's most successful scientific missions.
UK scientists and engineers from industry and academia have played a key role in instrument construction. The University of Leicester and University College London continue to provide support for the mission, processing scientific data and monitoring the performance of the instruments.
There is more information about XMM-Newton on our missions page.