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Visible-light view of Messier 81

This image shows a visible-light view of the nearby galaxy Messier 81 (M81). Located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (which also includes the Big Dipper), M81 is easily visible through binoculars or a small telescope. M81 is located at a distance of 12 million light-years. This image was obtained with a ground-based telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory and traces the distribution of stars in M81. The image reveals a very smooth stellar mass distribution, with the spiral arms relatively subdued.