Pinwheel Galaxy

The Pinwheel Galaxy, M101, is a spiral galaxy located about 21 million light years away towards the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Dipper or the Great Bear. It is about 170,000 light years across, around 70% the size of our Milky Way. In this image, infrared light is in red, ultraviolet in blue, visible in yellow, and X-rays in purple.

The lopsided shape of the Pinwheel Galaxy is probably the result of an interaction with another galaxy. As a result, waves of high mass and condensed gas spread through the galaxy, compressing clouds of material and stimulating star formation, creating several bright star forming regions called HII regions visible in the arms. Since it is so far away, our view of the galaxy is 21 million years old, as we are still waiting for more recent light to reach us.

Image from NASA, information from NASA and Spitzer.


Messier 101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy by Rüdiger
Via Flickr:
APM LZOS 130/780 + Williams Flattener / ATIK One 9.0 A LRGB made of 140min L from the ATIK and only 35min DSLR RGB with the EOS 500Da. Completely processed in PixInsight. Waited long time to add more CCD data, but weather doesn’t permit :(


The good news: Particle Zoo has a new Astrophysics series! The bad news: pedantic astronomer has something to say about two of them*…

The Betelgeuse pillow is actually an image of the Sun, even though astronomers have imaged Betelgeuse (and the dust around it), although it’s admittedly not as photogenic (yet). But Betelgeuse is about 1,000 times the diameter of the Sun so they probably look very different!

Second, we can do better than the “Eskimo” nebula (read about the word here). The planetary nebula NCG 2392 is also known as the Clownface Nebula and Caldwell 39 and could also be called the Golden Lion Tamarin Nebula (genius idea from Justin Starr) with 100% less potential disrespect to indigenous peoples and 100% more animal adorableness.


*I realize Particle Zoo plushies are made by one person, and overall I think they are awesome!

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 June 14 

M101: The Pinwheel Galaxy

Why do many galaxies appear as spirals? A striking example is M101, shown above, whose relatively close distance of about 27 million light years allows it to be studied in some detail. Observational evidence indicates that a close gravitational interaction with a neighboring galaxy created waves of high mass and condensed gas which continue to orbit the galaxy center. These waves compress existing gas and cause star formation. One result is that M101, also called the Pinwheel Galaxy, has several extremely bright star-forming regions (called HII regions) spread across its spiral arms. M101 is so large that its immense gravity distorts smaller nearby galaxies.

Pinwheel Galaxy

The Pinwheel Galaxy, M101, is a spiral galaxy located about 21 million light years away towards the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Since it is so far away, the light it emits takes 21 million years to reach us- we see it as it appeared 21 million years ago.

M101 is about 170,000 light years across, 70% larger than our Milky Way. Evidence suggests that a close interaction with another galaxy created waves of mass and gas through the galaxy, triggering star formation. As a result, numerous HII regions sprinkle the spiral arms.

Image from NASA, information from NASA.

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 5/8/14 - A Beautiful View of Messier 101

This incredible image, taken by R Jay GaBany, reveals the many colorful layers of the galaxy known as The Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 101). This celestial feature is an extremely popular galaxy to capture and study, but this has to be one of the most spectacular images ever taken of it.

M101 itself has various interesting features, but perhaps most prominently (at least in this version) is its asymmetrical structure Astronomers posit that its unusual shape is an artifact left behind after the galaxy experienced a close encounter with another galaxy in its past, but the culprit has yet to be identified. Moreover, we can see almost 3,000 starforming regions that cropped up after the gravitational collision.

Another observation that sets this galaxy apart from other spirals like our galaxy is the sheer number of stars contained within. The Pinwheel Galaxy has an estimated one TRILLION stars, while the Milky Way has about 400 billion (meaning, it has merely ¼th of the stars the Pinwheel Galaxy has), though it’s worth mentioning that the Milky Way is almost less than half its size.

This featured galaxy can be found about 21-million light-years away from Earth in the Ursa Major constellation.

Sources & Further Reading:

Image Credit: R Jay GaBany

Galaxy Messier 101

This image of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 is a composite of views from the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Each wavelength region shows different aspects of celestial objects and often reveals new objects that could not otherwise be studied. The red color shows Spitzer’s view in infrared light. It highlights the heat emitted by dust lanes in the galaxy where stars can form. The yellow color is Hubble’s view in visible light. Most of this light comes from stars, and they trace the same spiral structure as the dust lanes. The blue color shows Chandra’s view in X-ray light. Sources of X-rays include million-degree gas, exploded stars, and material colliding around black holes. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features seen in one wavelength match up with those seen in another wavelength. It’s like seeing with a camera, night vision goggles, and X-ray vision all at once.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, SSC, and STScI

The galaxy Messier 101 is a swirling spiral of stars, gas, and dust. Messier 101 is nearly twice as wide as our Milky Way galaxy. This infrared view by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveals the galaxy’s delicate dust lanes as yellow-green filaments. Such dense dust clouds are where new stars can form.

In this image, dust warmed by the light of hot, young stars glows red. The rest of the galaxy’s hundreds of billions of stars are less prominent and form a blue haze. Astronomers can use infrared light to examine the dust clouds where stars are born.

The Pinwheel galaxy, officially named Messier 101, is dominated by a mish-mash of spiral arms. The Pinwheel galaxy is located about 27 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It has one of the highest known gradients of metals (elements heavier than helium) of all nearby galaxies in our universe. In other words, its concentrations of metals are highest at its center, and decline rapidly with distance from the center. This is because stars, which produce metals, are squeezed more tightly into the galaxy’s central quarters.

This Hubble image originally released in 2006 reveals the gigantic Pinwheel galaxy, one of the best known examples of “grand design spirals”, and its supergiant star-forming regions in unprecedented detail. The image is the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy ever taken with Hubble.

credit: Image: European Space Agency & NASA