The magnetic field lines of the the Cigar Galaxy appear in this composite image. The lines follow the bipolar outflows (red) generated by exceptionally high rates of star formation. Image credit: NASA/SOFIA/E. Lopez-Rodiguez; NASA/Spitzer/J. Moustakas et al.
The Cigar Galaxy (also known as M82) is famous for its extraordinary speed in making new stars, with stars being born 10 times faster than in the Milky Way. Now, data from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, have been used to study this galaxy in greater detail, revealing how material that affects the evolution of galaxies may get into intergalactic space.
Researchers found, for the first time, that the galactic wind flowing from the centre of the Cigar Galaxy (M82) is aligned along a magnetic field and transports a very large mass of gas and dust – the equivalent mass of 50 million to 60 million Suns.
“The space between galaxies is not empty,” says Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist working on the SOFIA team. “It contains gas and dust – which are the seed materials for stars and galaxies. Now, we have a better understanding of how this matter escaped from inside galaxies over time.”