Located 27 million light-years away from Earth, the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51 or NGC 5194, is a beautiful and unique-looking spiral galaxy. And now, the James Webb Space Telescope has captured a perfect look at the swirling galaxy, which is trapped in a tumultuous dance with its nearest neighbor.
Tech. Entertainment. Science. Your inbox.
Sign up for the most interesting tech & entertainment news out there.
The new image was released by the European Space Agency (ESA) on August 29, showcasing the long spiraling arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy in vivid color and detail. The galaxy is believed to be caught in a cosmic dance with its nearest neighbor, a dwarf galaxy known as NGC 5195. This nearest neighbor is also believed to be the cause of M51’s unique appearance.
As the ESA explains in earlier observations of the Whirlpool Galaxy, whenever NGC 5195 passes by the large galaxy, its gravitational pull “pumps up waves within the Whirlpool’s pancake-shaped disk.” The ESA says these waves are like ripples in a pond, slowly rotating outward as they expand.
These ripples give the Whirlpool Galaxy its unique appearance and stately disguise, helping its outer spirals become so prominent and easy to see. These latest Webb observations are part of an observational series by the ESA called Feedback in Emerging Extragalactic star clusters, or FEAST. The FEAST project aims to understand the interaction of star formation in galaxies outside our own.
The image composite included in this article was produced by masking the data collected from Webb’s Mid-InfraRed Instrument and Near-InfraRed Camera. Astronomers can see more material in the galaxy by looking at it from two different angles.
Previously, Webb has given us unique glimpses at other cosmic entities, including a beautiful image of the Ring Nebula, and even deeper looks at planets within our own solar system, like Mars and Neptune.
The post James Webb captures hypnotic photos of the Whirlpool spiral galaxy appeared first on BGR.