Monday, July 14, 2014 12:00am -0400

A Dazzling Spiral: The Whirlpool Galaxy

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The Whirlpool Galaxy The Whirlpool Galaxy Jeff Johnson

Resembling a jewel studded grand staircase, the Whirlpool galaxy (M51) is one of the most sought after treasures of astronomers. Swirling with stellar gems and laced with cosmic stardust it proudly displays it's well defined spiral arms. One of the arms is punctuated with a galactic diamond, a smaller galaxy known as NGC 5195.

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.

M51 14Mar13 web

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

Read 5984 times Last modified on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 5:15pm -0500
Laurel Nendza

Laurel Nendza is the owner and creator of Stellar Eyes.