Spitzer spots nearby spiral galaxy M81. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The awesome arms of nearby galaxy Messier 81 are showcased in this image captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Because of its proximity (approximately 12 million lightyears from Earth), M81 is an ideal subject for astronomers studying the anatomy of a spiral galaxy.

See more amazing images by the Spitzer Space Telescope:

Winding out from the bluish-white central bulge of M81, where old stars predominate and there is little dust, the spiral arms are dominated by infrared emissions from dust.

The bright clumpy knots in the spiral arms are where massive stars are being born.

Studying the locations of these regions will help identify the conditions and processes needed for star formation.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Before going freelance, Rob spent almost four years on staff at BBC Science Focus magazine subediting news, features and reviews. He's now a freelance journalist and has written about everything from electric cars to decomposing bodies… although space and speed are what fascinate him most.