The Whirlpool Galaxy

Minimum credit line: Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI and Juan M. Uson, NRAO(for details, see Image Use Policy).

About this Image

This image of the spiral galaxy M51, also known as the "Whirlpool Galaxy," and its companion NGC5195 combines observations of neutral Hydrogen emission obtained with the Very Large Array with optical images (R, B) from the Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey - STScI Digital Sky Survey. The optical data show the emission of stars in these galaxies as well as the dust; the latter can be seen as dust lanes in the spiral arms of M51 itself and in obscuring the eastern (left hand) part of its companion, NGC5195. They also show foreground stars in our own Milky Way galaxy as well as some background galaxies. The spectral-line observations of neutral atomic hydrogen (depicted by bluish hues) yield the distribution, as well as the kinematics, of the neutral Hydrogen gas. The long tidal tail of neutral Hydrogen was shaken loose by the dance of these two galaxies.

Investigator(s):  A. H. Rots, A. Bosma, J. M. van der Hulst, E. Athanassoula, P. C. Crane. Image composition: J. M. Uson.

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Technical Data

    Telescope VLA 
    Date of Observation 1992-03-29 
    Type of Observation Spectral Line Observations 
    Center of Image RA: 13:29:52.45, Dec: 47:11:40.33 (J2000)  
    Field of View 0.5667 x 0.5667 degrees  
    Technical Caption The 21cm spectral-line observations were obtained with the VLA in B, C and D configurations and reduced separately by the observers to produce high-resolution (B, 8 arcsecond) and a low resolution (C+D, 15 arcsecond) images . These images were combined with some smoothing done to the edges of the higher resolution structures to merge them into the low-resolution image. This image was made for illustration purposes only and should not be used for quantitative research. The original HI images can be obtained from the observers or remade from the data in the VLA archive. 

  • Astronomical database entries for M51
    • Query NED for images of M51
    • Query SIMBAD for more M51 data


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