Hey, Sky Fans!
Happy Friday! It was, for me, has been an exhausting and mildly defeating week; one that ended with fewer teeth than it started with, and more than one feta-related incident, at long last, we’re almost there. I got the tea, and I have this new 30th anniversary version of U2’s Joshua Tree playing (30 years!?). Apropos of nothing other than how much I love these, here’s a photo.
That’s something else, isn’t it? What we’re looking at here is Messier 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, as seen in visible light by Hubble. It’s another spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way, and the Sombrero (M104), which we talked about a week or two ago.
This time, instead of looking at it edge on, along the side of the dish, we’re looking at it face-on like a kid pretending to drive with a plate as steering wheel. It’s oriented vertically from our point of view on it. Someone in some other corner of the universe might see it edge-on, and they might see the Sombrero face-on, like this.
It’s about 20 million light years away, toward the north, in the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Bear). Twenty million light years, and, still, even that, is relatively close as these things go. It’s about 170,000 light years across, which makes it a bit bigger than the Milky Way.
If you look closely, you can see some areas in the spiral arms that are brighter the other nearby places. Those are areas of active star formation. New stars, flickering on, as you read this. Again, too, far off in the background, especially toward the upper left, you can see some even more distant galaxies kicking around. Imagine what the people there are writing about our galaxy on their beaten-up old computers.
Hey, hey, hey, baby hang on. The night is young.
Have a great weekend, and clear skies, everyone!