the observant spiral

Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier's famous catalog, but definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed by Lord Rosse’s large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. M101 shares this modern telescopic field of view with spiky foreground stars within the Milky Way, and more distant background galaxies. The colors of the Milky Way stars can also be found in the starlight from the large island universe. Its core is dominated by light from cool yellowish stars.Along its grand spiral arms are the blue colors of hotter, young stars mixed with obscuring dust lanes and pinkish star forming regions. Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away.

Image Credit & Copyright: Laszlo Bagi

Time And Space

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Treehouse by the Shore. A two-story treehouse fully supported by five beech trees. The spiral staircase takes you to the main level of the treehouse from which you can observe the surroundings; the spiral staircase inside leads to the second floor, which is designed for cozy night talks under the blanket. Located in Munich, Germany.    

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A sea of galaxies

While one instrument of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed a pair of spiral galaxies for its 27th anniversary last month, another simultaneously observed a nearby patch of the sky to obtain this wide-field view.

These ‘parallel field’ observations increase the telescope’s productivity.

This parallel field shows an area of the sky awash largely with spiral galaxies like our Milky Way. Most of the prominent galaxies look different only because they are tilted at various orientations to our viewpoint – from edge-on to face-on. A few others are interacting or merging.

The image also shows a number of foreground stars in our own galaxy.

Credits: NASA, ESA & M. Mutchler (STScI), CC BY 4.0

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often – will it be for always? – how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.

—  A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
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(HubbleSite)  Perspectives on Spiral Galaxies

Spiral galaxies are pancake-shaped collections of billions of stars, along with vast clouds of gas and dust. This video illustrates how their observed shapes can differ greatly depending upon the angle at which they are observed. The spiral galaxies NGC 4302 (left) and NGC 4298 (right) are visualized in three dimensions and rotated to showcase how they might look if viewed from other perspectives. Each galaxy could be seen as a roughly circular face-on spiral, as a long, thin, edge-on spiral, or as any of the oblong shapes in between.

The galaxy models are based on observations by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, as well as on the statistical properties of galaxies. Because NGC 4302 is seen nearly edge-on, and its structure is not well-defined, its model was based upon observations of the spiral galaxy Messier 51.

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Hubbles Little Sombrero: Galaxies can take many shapes and be oriented any way relative to us in the sky. This can make it hard to figure out their actual morphology, as a galaxy can look very different from different viewpoints. A special case is when we are lucky enough to observe a spiral galaxy directly from its edge, providing us with a spectacular view like the one seen in this picture of the week.

This is NGC 7814, also known as the Little Sombrero. Its larger namesake, the Sombrero Galaxy, is another stunning example of an edge-on galaxy in fact, the Little Sombrero is about the same size as its bright namesake at about 60,000 light-years across, but as it lies farther away, and so appears smaller in the sky.

NGC 7814 has a bright central bulge and a bright halo of glowing gas extending outwards into space. The dusty spiral arms appear as dark streaks. They consist of dusty material that absorbs and blocks light from the galactic center behind it. The field of view of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image would be very impressive even without NGC 7814 in front; nearly all the objects seen in this image are galaxies as well.


European Space Agency

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Josh Barrington

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Hubble looks at sideways NGC 4710

Still an astrophysical mystery, the evolution of the bulges in spiral galaxies led astronomers to the edge-on galaxy NGC 4710. When staring directly at the centre of the galaxy, one can detect a faint, ethereal “X”-shaped structure. Such a feature, which astronomers call a “boxy” or “peanut-shaped” bulge, is due to the vertical motions of the stars in the galaxy’s bar and is only evident when the galaxy is seen edge-on. This curiously shaped puff is often observed in spiral galaxies with small bulges and open arms, but is less common in spirals with arms tightly wrapped around a more prominent bulge, such as NGC 4710.

Credit: NASA & ESA

(NASA)  NGC 1309: Spiral Galaxy and Friends
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing - Martin Pugh

A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309’s spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core. Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309’s recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy’s grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.

Twisted spiral galaxy NGC 134

Image obtained with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the spiral galaxy observed by the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, when at Paranal. NGC 134 is a barred spiral with its spiral arms loosely wrapped around a bright, bar-shaped central region. The red features lounging along its spiral arms are glowing clouds of hot gas in which stars are forming, so-called HII regions. The galaxy also shows prominent dark lanes of dust across the disc, obscuring part of the galaxy’s starlight. The image is a colour composite based on data obtained in the B, V, R, and H- filters with the FORS2 instrument attached to Antu, UT1 of the VLT. During his stay on Paranal, the Commissioner, together with the observatory staff, prepared the observations of this Galaxy. At night, Janez Potocnik initiated these observations, and checked the quality of the images as they appeared on the control screens. Because the high-sensitivity detectors used on the VLT measure only the intensity of the light reaching their pixels, the colour information is acquired by taking a sequence of images through different colored filters. Consequently, the Commissioner could not immediately see the attached image, but only black-and-white version of it. The final colour processing was done by Haennes Heyer and Henri Boffin, with input from Yuri Beletsky (all ESO).

Image credit: ESO

NGC 1309: Spiral Galaxy and Friends
A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309’s spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core. Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309’s recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy’s grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.

Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing - Martin Pugh

Messier 63- Sunflower Galaxy in Canes Venatici

M63 was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1779 and then catalogued by Charles Messier soon after. Later, Lord Rosse observed the spiral structure of the galaxy, one of the first observations of spiral structure. M63 belongs to the M51 Group, which includes the Whirlpool Galaxy. There has been one supernova observed in the galaxy, showing how seemingly motionless galaxies are indeed in a constant state of flux.

Top: Wide-Field - NASA

Bottom: Close-Up - Jschulman555