|How do spiral galaxies form stars?
To help find out, the
Hubble Space Telescope
imaged the nearby photogenic spiral
infrared light to highlight the dust that traces the dense gas that best forms stars.
To further isolate the
dust, much of the
optical light from stars has also been
The resulting unique image shows swirling and intricate patterns on the longest scales, while numerous bright clumps of previously hidden
open star clusters
appear on the smaller scales.
Anyone with a good pair of
binoculars can see the
Whirlpool toward the constellation of the
M51 lies about 30 million light years away, while the above imaged area spans about 15,000 light years from top to bottom.
Astronomers speculate that M51's
spiral structure is primarily due to its gravitational interaction with
a neighboring smaller galaxy.
ESA, M. Regan & B. Whitmore
(STScI), & R. Chandar
ESA, S. Beckwith
(STScI), & the
Hubble Heritage Team