M82 - Cigar Galaxy

Messier 82 or M82 (also designated NGC 3034) is a starburst galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.4 and its angular diameter is 9x4 arc-minutes. M82 lies at an estimated distance of 12 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 9h 55.8m, Dec= +69° 41´ which makes M82 best seen during the spring. The Messier Spring Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season. As one of the more famous objects in the Messier Catalog, it is commonly known as the Cigar Galaxy.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M82 (top) and M81 (bottom) through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on M82 appears to the right.

In spite of its inclusion in the Messier Catalog, this peculiar galaxy was actually discovered by J. E. Bode in 1774. M82 has an irregular, distorted disk due to the gravitaional interaction of its larger neighbor M81. It is known as a starburst galaxy since it is the site of intense star-forming activity. M81 and M82 are the brightest members of the M81 Group of galaxies in Ursa Major.

According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M82 is 11.5 million light years and its diameter is 37,000 light years. Its estimated mass is 50 billion solar masses.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M82 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M82

February 9, 1781
`Nebula without star, near the preceding [M81]; both are appearing in the same field of the telescope, this one is less distinct than the preceding; its light faint and [it is] elongated: at its extremity is a telescopic star. Seen at Berlin, by M. Bode, on December 31, 1774, and by M. Méchain in the month August 1779.'

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