Home > Astronomy, Galaxies, General Astronomy, Star & Solar System Formation > Hidden Details Revealed In Nearby Starburst Galaxy: Green Bank Telescope’s New Vision Debuts

Hidden Details Revealed In Nearby Starburst Galaxy: Green Bank Telescope’s New Vision Debuts


Composite image of starburst galaxy M82. CREDIT: Bill Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Hubble/NASA

Composite image of starburst galaxy M82. CREDIT: Bill Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Hubble/NASA

Using the new, high-frequency capabilities of the National Science Foundation’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), astronomers have captured never-before-seen details of the nearby starburst galaxy M82. These new data highlight streamers of material fleeing the disk of the galaxy as well as concentrations of dense molecular gas surrounding pockets of intense star formation.

M82, which is located approximately 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, is a classic example of a starburst galaxy — one that is producing new stars tens- to hundreds-of-times faster than our own Milky Way. Its relatively nearby location made it an ideal target for the GBT’s newly equipped “W-Band” receiver, which is capable of detecting the millimeter wavelength light that is emitted by molecular gas. This new capability makes the GBT the world’s largest single-dish, millimeter-wave telescope.

“With this new vision, we were able to look at M82 to explore how the distribution of molecular gas in the galaxy corresponded to areas of intense star formation,” said Amanda Kepley, a post-doctoral fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, and lead author on a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Having this new capability may help us understand why stars form where they do.”

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