M81 (Bode's Galaxy) & M82 (Cigar Galaxy) in Ursa Major
Bode's & Cigar Galaxies
Bode’s Galaxy (M81) and the Cigar Galaxy (M82) are a stunning pair of bright galaxies
that can be enjoyed no matter what the size is of your telescope. These two galaxies are
gravitationally bound to 32 other smaller galaxies to form their own small collection of
galaxies. Both our own Local-Group (of which the Milky Way is a member) and the
M81-Group are relatively close neighbors in space – both of which are sub-members of
the Virgo Supercluster.
M82 is undergoing massive star formation (called a starburst). At M82’s center it is 100x
more luminous than the center of our own galaxy due to the fresh formation of stars. The
reason for the heightened activity of M82 is because it was severely distorted and torn
while it passed nearby M81 (which is ten-times larger) about 300 million years ago.
This is the most impressive pair of galaxies, in the same field of view, that can be
observed through small telescopes. In addition, since these galaxies are so near to us,
even in the small 4-inch refractor, at higher power, I can detect the brighter knots of stellar
activity in M82 and begin to have glimpses of the spiral nature of M81. A glorious pair
that never sets below the horizon in Maryland and never fails to please the eye.