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?
- Great Earthquakes Doubled In The Most Recent 10 Year Period - What That Means
- What Americans Fear Most Isn't Ebola Or Terrorism, It's...
- Why Climate 'Uncertainty' Is No Excuse For Doing Nothing
- ECFA Workshop: Planning For The High Luminosity LHC
- Moderate Pot Use By Adolescents Doesn't Hurt IQ
- Cosmic Rays Jeopardize Deep-Space Astronaut Missions
- Dams Are Not The Smart Way To Secure Water For Agriculture
- "Nah. It's not free for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. Apple products usually don't play nice with..."
- "http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/HPV/index.html says no interesting difference in side..."
- "Tommaso, I fully agree with you that for the moment it would be unwise and unjustified to committ..."
- "Chaos, thanks, I couldn't come up with the word. Well, sure. The article really didn't work to..."
- "So many decisions seem to be made by ISEBYs — in someone else’s back yard. ..."
- Beyond universal donors, some poeple are programed with no blood type at all
- Anti-conventional ag movement spurs Big Ag to look to organic pesticides
- Can people really inherit memories?
- An end to fat shaming? The 50 year DNA mystery of metabolic dysfunction may soon be solved
- Egg freezing: a smart career move?
- Women carry fetal DNA long after children’s birth
- Early palliative care can cut hospital readmissions for cancer patients
- Criminologists try to solve murder mystery: Who will become a killer?
- Researchers record sight neurons in jumping spider brain
- Research suggests team-based care is most effective way to control hypertension
- UNC scientists discover hidden subpopulation of melanoma cells