Astrophoto: M-82 by Russell Croman

M-82 by Russell Croman
About two hundred million years ago, the latest encounter between M-82 and its nearby companion M-81 occurred in relative proximity to our planet- both are only about 11 million light year’s distant which is a mere stone’s away compared to the vastness of the universe. To any eyes that could have been a witness, the meeting would have seemed to happen in extreme slow motion because it took several million years from start to finish.

Nonetheless, M-82 was hugely altered, its outer arms stripped off, its star clouds excited into producing stars and exploding others at a rate so dizzying that matter was ejected and continues pouring in spectacular particle wind driven jets. These have a red, flame-like appearance and are estimated to be ten thousand light-years long. As a result, astronomers refer to M-82 as a starburst galaxy. Its exposed core is also a powerful source of x-rays – evidencing its runaway star activity.

This striking picture was taken by Russ Croman on February 3, 2005, from his Dimension Point Observatory in Mayhill, New Mexico and required almost five hours of combinded exposure. Russ’s instruments are quite sophisticated, for example, this image was made with his remote controlled twenty inch, f/8 RCOS Ritchey-Chr?tien telescope and an eleven mega-pixel SBIG astronomical camera.

Do you have photos you’d like to share? Post them to the Universe Today astrophotography forum or email them, and we might feature one in Universe Today.

Written by R. Jay GaBany