Named for its long, narrow, and ashy-looking figure, the Cigar Galaxy is one of the starburst galaxies in the Ursa Major constellation. It’s known for its fast development of new stars as well as its ability to ‘puff’ strong winds into the galactic space.
A team of scientists from NASA decided to weigh the wind coming from the Cigar Galaxy in order to figure out, according to Space.com, “how gas and dust enter into extragalactic space and influence the formation of new galaxies.” Gas and dust are two of the main ingredients in the creation of a new star, which is vital information for scientists.
In order to determine the weight of the Cigar Galaxy’s galactic wind, NASA used an airborne infrared telescope to count “pixels of dust” in the galaxy. The results were truly mind-blowing, showing that the galaxy’s celestial wind weighed an estimated 50 million to 60 million suns’ worth of mass. What’s even more amazing is the fact that this perfectly matches the galaxy’s magnetic field lines, which suggests that such strong winds could potentially pull an entire galaxy’s magnetic field.
“One of the main objectives of this research was to evaluate how efficiently the galactic wind can drag along the magnetic field,” says Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a Universities Space Research Association scientist who co-authored the study. “We did not expect to find the magnetic field to be aligned with the wind over such a large area.”