TONY & DAPHNE HALLAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY TONY & DAPHNE HALLAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Galaxies. Optical image of the spiral galaxy M81 (NGC 3031, lower centre) and M82 (NGC 3034, upper centre) in the constellation Ursa Major. North is at top. These galaxies are about 150,000 light years apart, and recently passed close to each other in space. This meeting distorted the shape of M82, the smaller of the two, giving it its irregular appearance. They lie around 12 million light years away, quite close in galactic terms. M81's spiral arms are dominated by hot young blue stars, and several large pink nebulae are seen, which are enormous starbirth regions. The nucleus appears yellow as it is mainly made up of older stars and dense dust.
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