Apr 4, 2024

Unveiling the Starburst: James Webb’s Survey of Messier 82

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The Messier 82 Galaxy (commonly known as M82) is a starburst galaxy located approximately 12 million light-years from Earth, with starburst meaning it is experiencing an unusually high rate of star formation, with approximately 10 times the number of stars being formed compared to our own Milky Way Galaxy. While M82 has a long history of being studied, specifically by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal uses data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to conduct more in-depth observations of M82 and its starburst characteristics.

Images of Messier 82 obtained by NASA’s Hubble in 2006 (left) versus recent images obtained by NASA’s JWST (right). (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, A. Bolatto (University of Maryland))

“M82 has garnered a variety of observations over the years because it can be considered as the prototypical starburst galaxy,” said Dr. Alberto Bolatto, who is a professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland and lead author of the study. “Both NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes have observed this target. With Webb’s size and resolution, we can look at this star-forming galaxy and see all of this beautiful, new detail.”

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