"What is essential is invisible to the eye", as Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote.

This is certainly true for starburst galaxies, which are undergoing a kind of 'baby boom', creating new, young stars faster than many Milky Way-like galaxies put together. The dusty 'ash' left over by successive generations of stars blocks out much of the starlight, rendering them invisible to optical telescopes. The bulk of the radiative energy of starbursts emerges instead at longer wavelengths in the infrared.

Now, Japan's Subaru telescope has been used to produce a new view [1] of the most famous of starbursts, Messier 82. Messier 82 is the nearest of such systems, at about 11 million light years from us. Located just above the front end of the Big Dipper, it is easily visible under dark northern skies to amateur astronomers equipped with a decent pair of binoculars.


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