starburst galaxy

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A galaxy whose energy output is dominated by radiation from recently formed stars. The implied rate of star formation is much greater than could be sustained for the whole of the galaxy's life, so the burst of activity must be transient. Radiation is emitted mainly in the ultraviolet region from hot, young massive stars, but this radiation is absorbed and re-emitted by dust in interstellar space to give very high luminosities at far infrared wavelengths. The Infrared Astronomical Satellite, IRAS, discovered the first starburst galaxies, some of which are the most luminous galaxies known, radiating at 1014 solar luminosities in the far infrared. Prominent examples of starburst galaxies are M82, which has undergone an encounter with its larger neighbour M81, and the pair of colliding galaxies known as the Antennae.


Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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