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02.26.14

The Cigar Galaxy M82

This image shows M82, also known as the "Cigar galaxy," in infrared light, as observed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope back in 2005. Long-wavelength, infrared light can pass through the cosmic dust that obscures the visible light our eyes see, as well as other short wavelength light, such as ultraviolet. With its dust-piercing, infrared vision, Spitzer therefore allows astronomers to see into and thus better understand otherwise hidden phenomena.

Astronomers discovered in early 2014 that a supernova had exploded in a particularly dusty region of M82. Spitzer has since taken a series of observations of the region. The telescope is collecting valuable data by being able to peer directly into the heart of the aftermath of the stellar explosion.

In the image, light from Spitzer's infrared channels are colored blue at 3.6 microns and green at 4.5 microns.