NGC 5195 is actually passing behind the Whirlpool and has been gliding past it for hundreds of millions of years. It's almost as if the two galaxies are caught in a cosmic love tango. Even though it is much smaller, NGC 5195 controls its large companion with its tantalizing gravitational gaze. The closer they come together the more the Whirlpool defines its form as gas and dust twirl, sparking new stars to life.
Located 25 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), the Whirlpool's beautiful face-on view and closeness to Earth allow astronomers to study the classic spiral galaxy's structure and star-forming processes. This amazing galactic masterpiece continues to be a lovely target for astrophotographers.
The stunning photos above were taken by astrophotographer Jeff Johnson on March 13th, 2013 from Las Cruces, New Mexico. You can view more of Jeff's incredible photos on his websitewww.jeffjastro.com.