NGC 5194, also known as M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, is one of the most spectacular examples of a spiral galaxy, with two spiral arms curling into one another in a billowing swirl, this galaxy hosts over a hundred billion stars and is currently merging with its companion, the smaller galaxy NGC 5195.
Around 30 million light-years away, the Whirlpool Galaxy is close enough to be easily spotted even with binoculars. Using the best telescopes available both on the ground and in space, astronomers can scrutinize its population of stars in extraordinary detail.
In the image below, observations performed at three different wavelengths with ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space telescopes are combined to reveal how three generations of stars coexist in the Whirlpool Galaxy.
CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER SIZE. NGC 5194, also known as M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. Credit: ESA / Herschel / XMM-Newton. Acknowledgements: "Physical Processes in the Interstellar Medium of Very Nearby Galaxies" Key Programme, Christine Wilson
The infrared light collected by Herschel – shown in red and yellow – reveals the glow of cosmic dust, which is a minor but crucial ingredient in the interstellar material in the galaxy’s spiral arms. This mixture of gas and dust provides the raw material from which the Whirlpool Galaxy’s future generations of stars will take shape.
Observing in visible and ultraviolet light, astronomers can see the current population of stars in the Whirlpool Galaxy, since stars in their prime shine most brightly at shorter wavelengths than infrared. Seen at ultraviolet wavelengths with XMM-Newton and portrayed in green in this composite image are the galaxy’s fiercest stellar inhabitants: young and massive stars pouring powerful winds and radiation into their surroundings.
The image also shows the remains of previous stellar generations, which shine brightly in X-rays and were detected by XMM-Newton. Shown in blue, these sources of X-rays are either the sites where massive stars exploded as supernovae in the past several thousand years, or binary systems that host neutron stars or black holes, the compact objects left behind by supernovae.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health
- Smoking, Drinking And Eating: It's Not About Your Freedom
- Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD - Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees
- Coffee Lowers Risk Of Alzheimer's Up To 20 Percent
- Diversity Fatigue: Why Businesses Struggle To Close The Gender Gap
- Like Collaboration And Intelligence In Humans? Thank War
- Thanksgiving Science: Artificial Pancreas Improves Treatment Of Type 1 Diabetes
- "No intelligent person believes tobacco controls' santimonious twaddle anymore. This is the purvey..."
- "A note from THE SIN OF PROHIBITION by G.K.Chesterton:So if you wish to change corporate behaviour..."
- "How can diseases linked to smoking tobacco be on the rise when the smoking rate has been consistently..."
- "I was looking at The Winnower again this morning, which led me back here. I tried to comment on..."
- "There is no question they were created to cater to universities and are staffed by people from..."
- Behavioral interventions to prevent progression to diabetes equally effective in men and women
- Gender differences in adaptation to space flight
- Long-term complication rate low in nose job using patient's own rib cartilage
- Survival differences seen for advanced-stage laryngeal cancer
- Effect of once-daily, low-dose aspirin on heart attack deaths and other outcomes
Books By Writers Here