NATIONAL OPTICAL ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORIES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NATIONAL OPTICAL ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORIES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Whirlpool galaxy. Optical image of the Whirlpool galaxy (M51, NGC 5194) and its companion NGC 5195 (top). North is at top. These interacting galaxies lie about 20 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. Their nuclei contain mainly older, yellower stars, while M51's spiral arms have more hot young blue stars and bright starbirth regions. The galaxies are linked by a thin bridge of gas and dust which NGC 5195 has pulled from the larger galaxy by gravitational attraction.
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