Sparkley Whirlpool

The Wirlpool glitters in x-ray light. Click for larger. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Wesleyan Univ./R.Kilgard, et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

The Wirlpool glitters in x-ray light. Click for larger. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Wesleyan Univ./R.Kilgard, et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

The Whirlpool Galaxy or M51 is a nice telescope target in the northern sky. I think it could be seen with binoculars with good skies because even at around 37 million light-years (11.3 Mpc) the galaxy pair is a bright 8.4.

This is also a very large system, the image spans 52,000 by 87,000 light-years.

The Chandra image is the product of a combined exposure of 9 days, 16 hours and 10 minutes between the x-ray and optical components. It really does sparkle in x-ray light.

From Chandra:

Nearly a million seconds of observing time with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way glittering with hundreds of X-ray points of light.

The galaxy is officially named Messier 51 (M51) or NGC 5194, but often goes by its nickname of the “Whirlpool Galaxy.” Like the Milky Way, the Whirlpool is a spiral galaxy with spectacular arms of stars and dust. M51 is located about 30 million light years from Earth, and its face-on orientation to Earth gives us a perspective that we can never get of our own spiral galactic home.

Read the rest and get larger version at the Chandra website.

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