The Cigar Galaxy, more technically known as Messier 82/M82, is bustling with activity, producing stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way.
in a new study, researchers have observed and analyzed M82, which is located 12 million light-years away from Earth to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. Using data from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA, they uncovered how materials that affect the evolution of galaxies get transported into intergalactic space.
“The space between galaxies is not empty,” explained Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a scientist from Universities Space Research Association who is also working behind SOFIA. “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.”
In their study, which was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters back in January, the researchers revealed that the galactic wind blowing from the center of the Cigar Galaxy carries an incredible amount of dust and gas into interstellar space. The researchers estimate that the amount of material that escaped from M82 through galactic winds is equal to the mass of 50 million to 60 million suns.
The researchers also confirmed that galactic wind carries the magnetic field of the galaxy outward. They found that the galactic wind was aligned with the magnetic field, an event that has never been directly observed before. They said that the galactic wind is dragging the magnetic field to more than 2,000 light-years across.
“One of the main objectives of this research was to evaluate how efficiently the galactic wind can drag along the magnetic field,” added Lopez-Rodriguez. “We did not expect to find the magnetic field to be aligned with the wind over such a large area.”
Terry Jones, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota and lead researcher of the study, added that the study of intergalactic winds is key to understanding how galaxies evolved throughout the history of the universe.
If similar processes took place billions of years ago, the researchers believe that the winds associated with starbursts, or the winds ejected from newly formed stars, might have played a major role in the evolution of the first galaxies.