Messier 81 (Infrared Universe)

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Duration: 18 seconds

Messier 81 (M81) is a classic example of a spiral galaxy. Star-forming regions in this galaxy become evident in the infrared view. In the infrared, the spiral arm structure becomes much more powerful relative to the visibly bright galactic center, revealing denser concentrations of cold dust and gas ready to be transformed into new stars.

Optical: Stars are partly obscured by dust.

Near-Infrared: Longer infrared wavelengths now show star-forming areas in red.

Far-Infrared: Shifting to infrared light reveals the dust lanes in red.

The human eye can only see visible light, but objects give off a variety of wavelengths of light. To see an object as it truly exists, we would ideally look at its appearance through the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Telescopes show us objects as they appear emitting different energies of light, with each wavelength conveying unique information about the object. The Webb Space Telescope will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity and sensitivity than ever before. Explore the Infrared Universe.

Adapted from Cool Cosmos by IPAC, with additional contributions from Bruno Merin and Miguel Merin (Pludo).

Galaxies, Infrared Universe, Scientific Visualizations, Spiral Galaxies, Spitzer


Optical: N.A. Sharp (NOAO, AURA, NSF); Near-infrared: NASA, JPL-Caltech, S. Willner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics); Far-infrared: NASA, JPL-Caltech, K. Gordon (University of Arizona) and S. Willner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics).

Publication: August 20, 2018