Indexed on: 29 Jun '01Published on: 29 Jun '01Published in: Astrophysics
The last tidal encounter between M82 and M81, some 500 Myr ago, had a major impact on what was probably an otherwise normal, quiescent disc galaxy. It caused a concentrated burst of star formation in the form of massive star clusters, which decreased rapidly, within a few 100 Myr. The current starburst in the centre of the galaxy is likely either due to large-scale propagating star formation or possibly related to late infall of tidally disrupted debris from M82 itself. It may, in fact, be a combination of these two mechanisms, in the sense that the star formation in the active core is actually propagating, while the overall evolution of the starburst is due to tidal debris raining back onto the disc of the galaxy, causing the present-day starburst.