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Color Mapping

Astrometrics

12.18.03

24-micron image of the Spiral Galaxy Messier 81

The magnificent spiral arms of the nearby galaxy Messier 81 are highlighted in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (which also includes the Big Dipper), this galaxy is easily visible through binoculars or a small telescope. M81 is located at a distance of 12 million light-years.

This 24-micron multiband imaging photometer image shows emission from warm dust heated by the most luminous young stars. The infrared-bright clumpy knots within the spiral arms show where massive stars are being born in giant H II (ionized hydrogen) regions. Studying the locations of these star forming regions with respect to the overall mass distribution and other constituents of the galaxy (e.g., gas) will help identify the conditions and processes needed for star formation.