Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our homage to our dear pal, Tammy Plotner, by taking a look at the Bode’s Galaxy– likewise called Messier 81!

Throughout the 18 th century, well known French astronomer Charles Messier saw the existence of a number of “ambiguous items” while surveying the night sky. Initially misinterpreting these items for comets, he started to brochure them so that others would not make the exact same error. Today, the resulting list (called the Messier Brochure) consists of over 100 items and is among the most prominent brochures of Deep Area Objects.

Among these items is the galaxy called Messier 81 (aka. Bode’s Galaxy), a spiral nebula situated about 12 million light-years from our Planetary system. Determining about 90,000 light-years in size (half the size of the Galaxy), this galaxy’s distance, plus size, and active stellar nuclear (AGN) makes its a preferred amongst expert and amateur astronomers alike.


This strategy spiral nebula certainly stands apart as the leader in the Regional M81/82 Group. At one time, a number of billion years earlier, the set communicated with each other. Even today they stay close … their centers separated by a direct range of just about 150,000 light years. By examining Cepheid variables, astronomers have actually figured out M81 to be around 11 million light years away. Can you picture how brilliant it would be had it been closer?!

Among the most interesting things to take a look at when seeing Messier 81 is its impenetrable core area. There’s excellent factor, too … It’s exceptionally thick. As N. Bartel (et al) stated in a 1995 research study:

” Very-long-baseline radio interferometry pictures of the nuclear area of the close-by spiral nebula M81 expose the most compact galactic core outside the Galaxy of which the size has actually been figured out: 700 x 300 huge systems (AU). The observations leave out a starburst or supernova analysis for the core. Rather they prefer an active galactic nucleus.”

And not just is the nucleus a fascination, however the smooth spiral structure also. After all, take a look at the number of stars it collected in when the 2 combined! Simply picture all that dust producing brand-new ones … As K. D. Gordon (et al) suggested in a 2004 research study, they provided images that exposed:

“[A] brilliant nucleus and 2 well fixed spiral arms studded with brilliant areas of star development. These images reveal that M81 has a considerable quantity of cold dust connected with the spiral arms. From multiwavelength morphology contrasts, the dust heating is argued be controlled by current star development even at the longest MIPS wavelength. The fixed UV and Ha SFRs are constantly lower than the IR SFRs showing substantial dust attenuation, radiative transfer impacts, and/or various excellent ages than presumed. The character of the dust attenuation shows that the dust geometry and/or grain residential or commercial properties are various for fixed areas in M81 than in starburst galaxies. The infrared-radio connection was discovered to differ by an aspect of ~ 6 in the M81 with meaningful structures associating with the spiral arms. These outcomes highlights the requirement for extra theoretical and empirical deal with how to properly integrate various SFR signs, representing dust, age, and radiative transfer impacts, to offer a precise view of the star development in areas of galaxies.”

However there are holes there … And not always black ones! As Ioannis Bagetakos (et al) described in a 2007 research study:

” The information reveal a sensational quantity of information in the type of 330 broadening shells and holes in the neutral ISM of M81 A contrast with the holes discovered in 2 other spirals and 2 dwarf galaxies exposes that the ISM in M81 shares a great deal of resemblances with the 2 spirals, whereas the structure of its ISM is various to that in dwarf galaxies. The 2 residential or commercial properties which most plainly highlight this are the size circulation of the Hi There holes and their circulation in speed. Our observations enhance the concept that the quantity of energy usually transferred in the ISM is the exact same, irrespective of galaxy type, however that the residential or commercial properties of HI holes depend upon the attributes of the host galaxy, significantly the density of the neutral gas layer.” “Likewise, there appears to be a clear indicator that Hi There holes in spiral nebula are shorter-lived, probably due to the combined impacts of shear and spiral density waves.”

History of Observation:

M81 is the very first of the 4 deep area charms found by Johann Elert Bode, who discovered it the set on December 31,1774 According to his historic notes:

” I discovered through the seven-foot telescope, carefully above the head of UMa, east near the star d at its ear, 2 little ambiguous spots separated by about 0.75 degrees, the positions of which relative to the neighbored little stars are displayed in the tenth figure. The spot Alpha (M81) appears mainly round and has a thick nucleus in the middle. The other, Beta, on the other hand, is really pale and of extended shape. I might identify the separation of Alpha to d as 2deg 7 ′, to Rho as 5deg 2 ′ and to 2 Sigma as 4deg 32 ′ with some precision; Beta was too faint and vanished from my eyes as quickly as I moved apart the halves of the unbiased glass.”

An infrared picture of Messier 81 taken by the Spitzer Area Telescope. Credit: NASA/SST

Pierre Mechain separately recuperated both galaxies in August 1779 and reported them to Charles Messier, who included them to his brochure after taking information on February 9,1781 As Messier reported:

” A nebula near the ear of the excellent Bear [Ursa Major], on the parallel of the star d, of 4th or 5th magnitude: its position was figured out from that star. This nebula is a little oval, the center clear, and one can see it well in a regular telescope of 3.5 feet.”

All historic observers keep in mind the brilliant nucleus, however to for Emil Dreyer to offer it an exclamation point in his own individual notes is a rarity … states he: “Impressive, exceptionally brilliant, exceptionally big, extended in position angle 156 degrees, slowly, then all of a sudden quite brighter towards the middle where there is a brilliant nucleus.”

Finding Messier 81:

Brilliant M81 is relatively simple to discover– when you get a specific technique. By utilizing the lower star closest to the “manage” in the bowl of the Huge Dipper, draw a psychological line in between it and Alpha– the leading outdoors star of the asterism. Now follow the exact same trajectory and extend that line around 1/3 even more into area and you’ll have the approximate location!

The place of Messier 81 in the Ursa Major constellation. Credit: IAU and Sky & Telescope publication (Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg)

When you exist, both M81 and buddy galaxy M82 are simple to find in a finderscope or little field glasses. With very little zoom, the set of galaxies will look like to little “feline’s eyes” radiant in the dark. Since of the relative brightness, both stand well to metropolitan lighting conditions and a lot of Moon disturbance. The stellar set makes a terrific research study for little telescopes and field glasses!

Might it influence you this evening!

Things Call: Messier 81
Alternative Classifications: M81, NGC 3031, Bode’s Nebula
Things Type: Sb– Disallowed Spiral Nebula
Constellation: Ursa Major
Right Ascension: 09: 55.6 (h: m)
Declination: +69: 04 (deg: m)
Range: 12000 (kly)
Visual Brightness: 6.9 (mag)
Evident Measurement: 21 ×10(arc minutes)

We have actually composed lots of intriguing short articles about Messier Objects and globular clusters here at Universe Today. Here’s Tammy Plotner’s Intro to the Messier Items, M1– The Crab Nebula, Observing Spotlight– Whatever Occurred to Messier 71?, and David Dickison’s short articles on the 2013 and 2014 Messier Marathons.

Be to sure to have a look at our total Messier Brochure And for more details, have a look at the SEDS Messier Database