Here in the Milky Way galaxy we have astronomical front row seats
as M81 and M82 face-off, a mere 12 million light-years away.
Locked in a gravitational struggle for the
past billion years or so, the two bright galaxies are captured in
telescopic snapshot, constructed from 25 hours of image data.
Their most recent close encounter likely resulted in
spiral arms of M81 (left) and violent star
forming regions in M82 so energetic the galaxy
After repeated passes, in a few billion years only one galaxy
From our perspective, this cosmic moment is seen through
a foreground veil of the Milky Way's stars and clouds of dust.
Faintly reflecting the foreground starlight, the
pervasive dust clouds are relatively
unexplored galactic cirrus, or
flux nebulae, only a few hundred light-years
above the plane of the Milky Way.