The Cigar galaxy (M82) is already famous for the speed at which it creates new stars. The composite image shows the powerful magnetic field lines on a truly epic scale, wrapping around the entire galaxy. NASA's SOFIA observatory (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy - a converted Boeing 747) has shed light on what is happening.
Researchers discovered the galactic wind flowing from the centre of the galaxy is aligned along magnetic field lines. This transports a huge mass of gas and dust into intergalactic space - the equivalent mass of 50 million to 60 million stars.
M82 is a classic example of a starburst galaxy, where stars are being born at an extraordinary rate. The winds created by this star formation have been thought to drag the galactic magnetic fields in the same direction, but this has only been a theory until now. SOFIA shows the wind dragging the magnetic fields perpendicular to the galactic disc, and the field ends up more than 2,000 light-years across.
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