Messier 82 ~ Exploding Galaxy with Super Nova SN2014J!
Optics: RC Optical System 20" F/8.2 (4165.6 mm Focal Length) Date: January 2014
Camera: SBIG STXL-11002 with AO-X Adaptive Optics Location: Columbus, Texas
Exposure: LRGB = 100:50:50:50 minutes Imager: Kent E. Biggs
M82 has been called the Cigar Galaxy due to its namesake's shape when observing visually through a telescope.  Also known as NGC 3034, it is sometimes referred to as an exploding galaxy.  It is not really exploding, though it does have intense star formation causing it to produce 10 times more stars than that of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.   Consequently it is 5 times brighter than our own galaxy, even though it is one third the size.  What is causing this star formation is likely the gravitational pull of nearby monster galaxy M81.  On January 21 of this year (2014), a Type Ia supernova was discovered shown in the image above.  Move your mouse over the image to identify its location.  This type of supernova is interesting in two ways.   First it happens only in binary star systems in which one of the stars is a white dwarf consuming its companion star's mass over time, such that its mass finally allows for the ignition temperature of carbon fusion.  After enough mass is consumed, eventually a runaway reaction occurs resulting in the catastrophic explosion.   For several weeks, the type Ia supernova will produce one or more times the combined energy output of all the stars of its entire galaxy as shown in the unprocessed image below.  Move your mouse over this image to see processed compared to unprocessed image.   The second interesting fact about a type Ia supernova is that it always produces the same brightness making it an excellent tool to measure distances to galaxies.