January 26th, 2011

galaxy M51

Astro-Porn of the Day: Spiral galaxies are full of stars... and dust.

Check out this amazing pair of Hubble Space Telescope photos of M51, aka the Whirlpool Galaxy:


Click the image to see the Hubble site with lots of information.

The left photo shows the galaxy as we normally view it - in visible light - revealing the spiral arms, red star-forming regions, and blue star clusters.

The right image - taken in near-infrared light - removes most starlight to reveal the Whirlpool Galaxy's sweeping dust lanes.

If you have a telescope of 8" aperture or greater and can take it out into dark skies, you, too, can easily see this galaxy's spiralling arms and its companion galaxy (see my icon). Bring a nice astro-camera and you'll be able to take gorgous photos, yourself, as long as you can do long exposures. If you have an infrared filter for your camera, you can capture the underlying dust structure, as well.

I loves me a big galaxy facing us flat-on like this!

Best,
Chris