NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer has captured a new view of two companion galaxies - a somewhat tranquil spiral beauty and its rambunctious partner blazing with smoky star formation.
The unlikely pair, named Messier 81 and Messier 82, got to know each other a lot better during an encounter that occurred a few hundred million years ago. As they swept by each other, gravitational interactions triggered new bursts of star formation. In the case of Messier 82, also known as the Cigar galaxy, the encounter has likely triggered a tremendous wave of new star birth at its core. Intense radiation from newborn massive stars is blowing copious amounts of gas and smoky dust out of the galaxy, as seen in the WISE image in yellow hues.(read more)