NASA Spotlight: Spiral Galaxy and Its Neighbor Make Astronomical Photo of the Day

NASA Spotlight

NASA Spotlight: Spiral Galaxy and Its Neighbor Make Astronomical Photo of the Day

NASA Spotlight- Galaxies M51 and NGC 5195 appear in the photo highlighted by NASA this Friday (11). The first, with a spiral structure, is 31 million light-years away from us and is interacting with its neighbor.

M51 is also called NGC 5194. Its spiral arms and dust lanes appear in front of galaxy NGC 5195, signaling the gravitational interactions that occur between the two.

Discovered in 1773 by the French astronomer Charles Messier, the galaxy M51 can be observed in the direction of the constellation Canes Venatici, the Hounds. As it faces Earth from our observation perspective, it is a great object for studying the structure of galaxies.

When M51 is observed directly with ground-based telescopes, it tends to appear faint and fuzzy. The sharpness of the galaxy in the photo came from the way the image was taken: through a collaboration, several astrophotography’s used telescopes in different places around the world, adding up to more than 10 days of exposure.

The Galaxy M51

Also called the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51 is a grand design spiral galaxy, a category that includes those with prominent, well-defined spiral arms. For some astronomers, the arms of the galaxy have this structure due to the encounter with NGC 5195.

This galaxy is passing behind M51 and, despite being smaller, it seems to be affecting the structure of its neighbor. The gravitational interactions between the two have been driving star formation there.

M51’s arms are formed by bands of stars and gas, accompanied by dust. In addition to beauty, her arms are like star factories: inside them, gaseous hydrogen is compressed and forms clusters of stars.


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