TONY & DAPHNE HALLAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY TONY & DAPHNE HALLAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Whirlpool Galaxy. Optical image of the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51, NGC 5194) and its companion NGC 5195 (upper centre). North is at top. These interacting galaxies lie about 20 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. M51 is around half the size of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. It has a diameter of around 65,000 light years and a mass of about 50,000 million solar masses. The arms of M51 are made up largely of hot young blue stars, and several pink starbirth regions can also be seen. The galaxies are linked by a bridge of gas and dust which NGC 5195 has pulled from the larger galaxy by gravitational attraction.
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