A Rainbow Tightly Spun

NASA, ESA, CXC, JPL, Caltech and STScI

Tightly spun filaments of color wind around the core of the Pinwheel galaxy in this combo image from four of NASA’s Great Observatories.

Explore the arching tails of color in this image. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The Pinwheel Galaxy lies fairly close to Earth; just 21 million light-years away toward the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear or the Big Dipper. It is considered a grand design spiral galaxy and we see it nearly face-on allowing astronomers a good look at the tight, bright nucleus and long, graceful spiral arms. This galaxy is also about 70 percent larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy. It dwarfs our galaxy with a diameter of 170,000 light-years.

Composite images, images made from several telescopes, like this help astronomers match up features that show brightly in some parts of the light spectrum with those in others. They are more than just a rainbow of pretty colors. Each color tells a different story about how stars form and how they die. Red colors in this image come from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Warm dust, where stars are being born, shine brightly for Spitzer. Yellow bits of starlight shining through are from the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble sees the Universe as we would see it with our own eyes in visible light. Blue areas shine brightly in ultraviolet. These are young, hot stars seen by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or GALEX, telescope. The Chandra X-ray telescope sees areas in purple. This is light given off by supernovae, exploded stars, hot gas and material falling into black holes.

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