M82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy thanks to its distinctive shape, is a familiar target for amateur and professional astronomers alike, the closest starburst galaxy to Earth at a distance of some 12 million light years. Located in the constellation Ursa Major, M82’s core is 100 times brighter than the Milky Way’s, the result of rapid star formation likely triggered by gravitational interactions with the nearby galaxy M81. In this composite view, M82’s magnetic field, detected by the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus instrument aboard the SOFIA airborne observatory, is shown as streamlines that appear to follow bipolar outflows of gas, seen in red, generated by starburst activity. Visible starlight is shown in grey, with near- and mid-infrared starlight and dust shown in yellow as seen by the SOFIA and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
In this Hubble Space Telescope image we see an irregular dwarf galaxy known as UGC 4459, located in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). While UGC 4459’s diffused and disorganised stellar population of several billion sounds impressive, this is small when compared to the 200 to 300 billion stars in the Milky Way.
Astronomers have found the strongest evidence yet that the formation of massive stars follows a path similar to their lower-mass brethren — but on steroids! The new findings show that the episodic explosive outbursts within what are called accretion discs, known to occur during the formation of average mass stars like our Sun, also happen in the formation of much more massive stars.