Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2016 November 9
Explanation: One of the bright spiral galaxies visible in the north sky is M63, the Sunflower Galaxy. M63, also catalogued as NGC 5055, can be found with a small telescope toward the constellation of Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici). Visible in the featured picture from the Hubble Space Telescope is the center of M63, complete with long winding spiral arms glowing blue from a few bright young stars, emission nebulae glowing red from hot ionized hydrogen gas, and dark dust in numerous filaments. M63 interacts gravitationally with M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy) and several smaller galaxies. Light takes about 35 million years to reach us from M63, and about 60,000 years to cross the spiral galaxy. Stars in the outer regions of the Sunflower Galaxy rotate about the center at a speed so high that, given the matter seen and assuming normal gravity, they should fly off into space. That the stars remain is taken as an indication that some sort of invisible, gravitationally-binding, dark matter is present.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.