Bode's Galaxy M81 and the Cigar Galaxy M82 [at top] as photographed by Michael Weiland of the Interessengemeinschaft Astronomie an der Universität Konstanz (Astronomy Interest Group at the University of Constance). Image Source: The Messier Catalog.
Mainstream thought easily laughs off UFOlogists. Some researchers have suggested that alien-seekers simply subconsciously mapped demonology and other spectral mythologies onto futuristic, faux scientific narrative tropes. Other commentators have been so literal-minded as to read that mapping backwards, and see (as Mac Tonnies partly did) in our superstitions about elves and fairies a cultural crypto-log of alien visitation. This so-called unified theory of strangeness is hard to believe.
"The type Ir-II galaxy, M82 (NGC 3034), also known as the Cigar Galaxy (top), shows the results of extreme rates of star birth and death. Supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars, contribute to a violent wind of material expelled from M82's central regions. The burst of star formation was likely triggered a mere 100 million years ago in the latest of a series of bouts with neighbouring large galaxy M81 (at bottom)." Image Source: *Astronomy.
Laughing off extraterrestrials was less easy to do in 2009, when radio astronomers received strange radio signals from the nearby Messier 82 galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. The news, announced in 2010, immediately attracted conspiracy hounds of the Internet and 2012 Mayan enthusiasts. Taking a few sticks of detail from the story, they mused: 'are we being contacted by aliens?' 'Are they headed this way?'
Hubble view of M82 in 2006. Image Source: NASA.
Web chatterers can rest easy. This galaxy is a hotbed of young star formations, which could explain this unusual object. Wiki:
In April 2010, radio astronomers working at the Jodrell Bank Observatory of the University of Manchester reported an unknown object in M82. [Since May 2009, the] object has started sending out radio waves, and the emission does not look like anything seen anywhere in the universe before. There have been several theories about the nature of this unknown object, but currently no theory entirely fits the observed data. It has been suggested that the object could be a "micro quasar", having very high radio luminosity yet low X-ray luminosity, and being fairly stable. However, all known microquasars produce large quantities of X-rays, whereas the object's X-ray flux is below the measurement threshold. The object is located at several arcseconds from the center of M82. It has an apparent superluminal motion of 4 times the speed of light relative to the galaxy center.
Co-discoverer Tom Muxlow of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics near Macclesfield, UK explained that the object might be a black hole, but he was not sure. He told the press, "Watch this space!" The original 2010 paper is here: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1003.0994v1.pdf (Hat tip: The World I Know). The Royal Astronomical Society's press release is here.
NOTES FOR READERS OF MY POSTS.