Posted by: Kash Farooq | November 4, 2012

Space Scenery: Spiral Galaxies

Spiral Galaxies are very photogenic and obviously needed to be in the Space Scenery series

As always, click an image to view the much bigger versions.

Let’s start with our closest neighbour: The Andromeda Galaxy. It is approximately 2.5 million light-years away and about twice as big as our galaxy, The Milky Way. From a reasonably dark site, it is one of the furthest objects you can see with the naked eye. It is moving towards us and will collide with the Milky Way in about 4.5 billion years, most likely resulting in the two galaxies merging to form a giant elliptical galaxy.

Robert Gendler - Andromeda - M31

The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier M31) is our closest neighbour – approximately 2.5 million light-years away. It is larger than our Galaxy – it has at least twice the number of stars than the Milky Way Galaxy (1 trillion vs. 200-400 million).  (Credit: Robert Gendler)

Moving on to my favourite image: The Sombrero Galaxy (Messier M104), which is seen edge on from us. It looks like something out of a Sci-Fi film. You definitely want to click the image to view the large version:

Sombrero Galaxy M104

The Sombrero Galaxy (also known as Messier 104 or NGC 4594) is 28 million light years away. (Credit: Hubble)

Next: Messier 51 – the stunning Whirlpool Galaxy. It is about 23 million light years away. As it is seen face-on from Earth, and is relatively close, it has been studied extensively by professional astronomers:

Whirlpool Galaxy M51 (NGC 5194)

Whirlpool Galaxy M51 (NGC 5194). Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) N. Scoville (Caltech)

Now let’s look at the same galaxy, but in infrared – this highlights the dust found in the Galaxy. In this image, to further show the dust, the optical light from the stars has been digitally removed. Scientifically it tells us a lot about the star forming regions of the galaxy. It also looks spectacular:

Whirpool Galaxy - M51 - Infrared

Whirpool Galaxy – Messir 51 – imaged in infrared (Credit: Hubble)

I’ll finish off with a few more beautiful spiral galaxies:

Spiral Galaxy NGC6384

Spiral Galaxy NGC6384, about 80 million light-years away (Credit: Hubble)

Spiral Galaxy M74

Spiral Galaxy Messier 74, 32 million light-years away. The perfect spiral? (Credit: Hubble)

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy - M83

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy – Messier 83, approximately 15 million light-years away (Credit: ESO)

Related articles

Spiral Galaxies, Density Wave Theory and Dark Matter.

Space Scenery series.



  1. Reblogged this on Down by the Dougie and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)There’s some fantastic photographs of different types of galaxies in this blog post.

  2. Reblogged this on Sons of a New World and commented:
    And humans still thinking that they are something important in this wonderful Universe.


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