Image Tour: The Whirlpool Galaxy
A beautiful spiral galaxy, the Whirlpool Galaxy lives up to its name. The dust lanes emphasize the newborn stars in the arms.
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Sonoma State University
- Images of the Whirlpool Galaxy: STScI
Text, Image Tour, The Whirlpool Galaxy.
Fast Facts. Location, Constellation Canes Venatici, Hunting Dogs. Distance From Earth, 31 million light-years. Size, 91,000 light-years across. Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope.
This massive collection of stars, gas, and dust gets its name from its distinctive spiral shape, first noted in 1845 by Irish astronomer William Parsons, also known as Lord Rosse.
A bar appears at the bottom. Text, Tour Stops. Companion Galaxy, Spiral Arms, Cluster of Stars, Central Bulge, Dust Lanes. A box highlights the first stop, Companion Galaxy.
Text, The Whirlpool and this smaller galaxy are affecting each other gravitationally.
The force they exert on each other propels the Whirlpool's starbirth.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Spiral Arms.
In the photo of the Whirlpool to the right, the spiral shape is highlighted in white.
Stars are born in the Whirlpool's spiral arms as gravity crushes gas and dust together until they erupt in star formation.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Cluster of Stars.
In the top left corner, a photo of the Whirlpool shows a white rectangle indicating the portion of it being shown in the larger photo to the right.
Text, Hot newborn stars blaze blue. The specks are clusters of hundreds of thousands of stars, not individual stars.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Central Bulge.
Text, Old sedate stars live in the galaxy's central bulge.
A photo of the bulge appears to the right.
Text, These stars are much cooler than the newborn stars in the arms.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Dust Lanes.
Text, Dark lanes of silicon and carbon dust block visible light.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Gas Clouds. Clouds of red gas surround the stars in the photo on the right.
Text, Clouds of hydrogen gas, heated mainly by nearby stars, give off a red glare.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Foreground Stars. Three bright stars are circled in white.
Text, Not all stars in the image are Whirlpool Galaxy stars.
These individual stars are within our own Milky Way galaxy.
The box on the tour bar highlights the next stop, Background Galaxies. Three bright lights are circled in white.
Text, From our perspective these bright points look like stars, but they're actually giant galaxies even farther away than the Whirlpool.
The text and circles fade, then the tour stops reappear in a bar across the bottom. Text, Companion Galaxy, Spiral Arms, Cluster of Stars, Central Bulge, Dust Lanes, Gas Clouds, Foreground Stars, Background Galaxies.