HST/NICMOS observations of M82

Almudena Alonso-Herrero, Marcia J. Rieke, George H. Rieke, Douglas M. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The irregular galaxy M82 is known as the archetypal starburst galaxy. Its proximity (3.5 Mpc) makes this galaxy an ideal laboratory for studying the properties of its starburst. The detailed morphology of the [FeII] 1.644 μm and emission Paα (at 1.87 μm) is revealed by the NICMOS images. The peak of the 2.2 μm continuum brightness (evolved population) lies very close to the dynamical centre. Most of the Paα emission (which traces the young population) is distributed in a ring of star formation (with a 'hole' lacking line emission at the centre of the galaxy). These observations support the scenario in which the starburst in M82 is propagating outwards. It has long been suggested that the [FeII] emission in starburst galaxies can be used as a measure of supernova (SN) activity. M82 shows a large number of radio supernova remnants (SNRs), approximately 50, lying in the plane of the galaxy. The comparison of the positions of the bright compact [FeII] emitting regions with the location of the radio SNRs shows that there is no one-to-one spatial correspondence between the two emissions, suggesting that the radio and [FeII] emissions trace two populations of SNRs with different ages. Young (a few hundred years) SNRs are best traced by their radio emission, whereas the [FeII] stage lasts for at least a few 104 yr. The compact [FeII] sources contribute only some 20 % of the total [FeII] emission observed in M82. However, much of the remaining unresolved [FeII] emission in the plane of the galaxy may arise from SNRs that expanded and merged into a general interstellar medium within a few 104 yr. Presumably, as much as 70% of the total extinction-corrected [FeII] 1.644 μm in M82 is associated with SNRs. The extended and diffuse [FeII] component in M82 seems to be related with the superwind above and below the disc of the galaxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1120
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysics and Space Science
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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