Science

NASA’s New Video Reveals What Whirlpool Galaxy Looks Like

NASA's New Video Whirlpool Galaxy
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

There are different types of galaxies, and each one of them hide their unique way of creating objects within it. Whirlpool galaxies are a special kind of  spiral galaxy and represents the wonder of how stars form within it. NASA’s new video reveals the secrets of one whirlpool galaxy that shows a unique form of star formation and death.

NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for operations with the Hubble Space Telescope and it released a new video which shows three new space observations of the Whirlpool Galaxy. The video lasts three minutes and shows a beautiful series of images of space and the Whirlpool Galaxy.

The video starts with a powerful view of a galaxy which is rich in supernovae (star explosions) astronomical events. The galaxy is extremely far, located about 30 million light years from Earth, yet Hubble could so majestically and accurately capture what it looks like. The galaxy is located in the direction of the northern constellation Canes Venatici. Scientifically, scientists refer to the galaxy as M51 or NGC 5194. To learn more about it, scientists studied the galaxy at three different wavelengths: infrared, visible and X-ray.

“The Whirlpool Galaxy is perhaps the most striking example of a spiral galaxy,” Hubble officials said in the video. “Different wavelength observations reveal different structures in the galaxy. In three dimensions, the galaxy’s spiral arms whirl through a pancake-shaped disk.”

Hubble was used to capture the visible wavelength observation of the whirlpool galaxy, while the infrared light and X-ray observations were captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory respectively.

The astronomers in NASA’s new video also explain what can be spotted within the three wavelengths.

Using visible light, astronomers are able to observe older stars and younger stars. Those that appear more yellow and older in the observations are usually located closer to the center of the galaxy. While the younger and bluer stars appear to scatter out at the spirals of the galaxy.

Using infrared light, scientists can see the oldest and reddest stars which are spread across the entire galaxy. Then, using X-ray observation, the researchers can see zones high in energy. These come from the powerful emissions from different star systems, including the binary ones, as well as black holes and neutron stars – dense stars which are leftover from exploding stars in supernovas.

Using different wavelengths, scientists can also reveal the initial structure of the whirlpool galaxy and what it is made of. In that way, scientists revealed the supermassive black hole which lies at the center of the galaxy, emitting powerful X-rays. They can also see cold gas and dust using the infrared temperature of the galaxy which tells us more about its structure. Also, hot gases in stellar nurseries means there are supernova explosions taking place.

“The contrasting features seen in multiwavelength studies greatly enhance our understanding of galactic structure,” the video says.

You can see NASA’s new video below.