M82 - The Cigar Galaxy

Credits: Keith Turnecliff, Long Itchington

Messier 82 (M82), also known as the Cigar Galaxy, is an edge-on starburst galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy lies at a distance of 11.4 to 12.4 million light years from Earth and has an apparent magnitude of 8.41. It has the designation NGC 3034 in the New General Catalogue.
The Cigar Galaxy occupies an area of 11.2 by 4.3 arc minutes of apparent sky, which corresponds to a linear diameter of about 37,000 light years. In small telescopes, it forms an impressive pair with its larger neighbour, Bode’s Galaxy (M81), which appears face-on and lies only 38 arc minutes from M82.
The Cigar Galaxy was long believed to be an irregular galaxy. However, near-infrared observations in 2005 revealed two symmetric trailing spiral arms in the galaxy. The high surface brightness of the galaxy’s disk and our edge-on view of M82 are the main reasons why the spiral arms had not been detected sooner. M82 is usually classified as irregular, but is probably a distorted disk galaxy and a striking prototype of a class of starburst galaxies.

Facts about M82 by Keith Turnecliff

In binoculars and small telescopes, the Cigar Galaxy appears as a thin rod of light, while 6-inch and 8-inch telescopes reveal the bright core and dark patches across the galaxy’s surface. Larger instruments show more details of the galaxy’s structure.
The best time of year to observe M81 and M82 is during the spring.

This star chart represents the view from Long Itchington for mid March at 10pm.
Credits: Image courtesy of Starry Night Pro Plus 8, researched and implemented by Keith Turnecliff.