Out of this whirl: The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and companion galaxy

Esahubble_heic0506a_1024

esahubble_heic0506a April 25th, 2005

Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. This sharpest-ever image, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure. The Whirlpool's most striking feature is its two curving arms, a hallmark of so-called grand-design spiral galaxies. Many spiral galaxies possess numerous, loosely shaped arms that make their spiral structure less pronounced. These arms serve an important purpose in spiral galaxies. They are star-formation factories, compressing hydrogen gas and creating clusters of new stars. In the Whirlpool, the assembly line begins with the dark clouds of gas on the inner edge, then moves to bright pink star-forming regions, and ends with the brilliant blue star clusters along the outer edge. Some astronomers believe that the Whirlpool's arms are so prominent because of the effects of a close encounter with NGC 5195, the small, yellowish galaxy at the outermost tip of one of the Whirlpool's arms. At first glance, the compact galaxy appears to be tugging on the arm. Hubble's clear view, however, shows that NGC 5195 is passing behind the Whirlpool. The small galaxy has been gliding past the Whirlpool for hundreds of millions of years. As NGC 5195 drifts by, its gravitational muscle pumps up waves within the Whirlpool's pancake-shaped disk. The waves are like ripples in a pond generated when a rock is thrown in the water. When the waves pass through orbiting gas clouds within the disk, they squeeze the gaseous material along each arm's inner edge. The dark dusty material looks like gathering storm clouds. These dense clouds collapse, creating a wake of star birth, as seen in the bright pink star-forming regions. The largest stars eventually sweep away the dusty cocoons with a torrent of radiation, hurricane-like stellar winds, and shock waves from supernova blasts. Bright blue star clusters emerge from the mayhem, illuminating the Whirlpool's arms like city streetlights. The Whirlpool is one of astronomy's galactic darlings. Located approximately 25 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), the Whirlpool's beautiful face-on view and closeness to Earth allow astronomers to study a classic spiral galaxy's structure and star-forming processes.

Provider: Hubble Space Telescope | ESA

Image Source: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0506a/

Curator: ESA/Hubble, Garching bei München, Germany

Image Use Policy: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Messier 51 Whirlpool Galaxy
Subject - Local Universe
Galaxy > Type > Spiral
Esahubble_heic0506a_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 13h 29m 52.3s
DEC = 47° 12’ 47.4”
Orientation
North is 91.9° CW
Field of View
9.6 x 6.6 arcminutes
Constellation
Canes Venatici

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Hubble (ACS) Infrared (I) 814.0 nm
Hubble (ACS) Optical (H-alpha + Nii) 658.0 nm
Hubble (ACS) Optical (V) 555.0 nm
Hubble (ACS) Optical (B) 435.0 nm
Spectrum_base
Esahubble_heic0506a_1280
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ID
heic0506a
Subject Category
C.5.1.1  
Subject Name
Messier 51, Whirlpool Galaxy
Credits
NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Release Date
2005-04-25T06:00:00
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0506a/
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Distance Notes
Distance in light years from NED
Facility
Hubble Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope
Instrument
ACS, ACS, ACS, ACS
Color Assignment
Band
Infrared, Optical, Optical, Optical
Bandpass
I, H-alpha + Nii, V, B
Central Wavelength
814, 658, 555, 435
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
J2000
Reference Value
202.468074158, 47.213174399
Reference Dimension
11477.0, 7965.0
Reference Pixel
5739.5, 3983.5
Scale
-1.38852130116e-05, 1.38852130116e-05
Rotation
-91.908150788000142
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Data calculated based on Simbad coordinates! Using this image as an overlay on a DSS background, a 5 arcsec (or so) difference is expected to be seen!
Creator (Curator)
ESA/Hubble
URL
http://www.spacetelescope.org/
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2
City
Garching bei München
State/Province
Postal Code
D-85748
Country
Germany
Rights
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher
ESA/Hubble
Publisher ID
esahubble
Resource ID
heic0506a
Metadata Date
2005-04-19T08:54:59+01:00
Metadata Version
1.1
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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There is no distance meta data in this image.