About two hundred million years ago, the latest encounter between M82 and it's nearby companion M81 occurred in relative proximity to our planet- both are only about 11 million light year's distant which is a mere stone's away compared to the vastness of the universe.

M82 was mangled, it's outer arms stripped off, it's star clouds excited into producing stars and exploding others at a rate so dizzying that matter was ejected and continues pouring in spectacular particle wind driven jets. These have a red, flame-like appearance and are estimated to be ten thousand light-years long. As a result, astronomers refer to M82 as a starburst galaxy. Its exposed core is also a powerful source of x-rays- evidencing it's runaway star activity.

Clouds of debris from this runaway stellar activity can be seen rising 20,000 light years above the horizontal plane of this galaxy. A newly released image from the Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infarred light, also reveals the extensive nature of these perpendicular spikes.