Credit: ESA and NASA

Stars burst into life in the belly of the Whale Galaxy in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the bright glow from the galaxy’s central bulge, the dust patterns and star clouds in the image. What pictures does your imagination create? Leave a note below.

NGC 4631, or the Whale Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy probably similar to our own Milky Way. We are seeing the galaxy edge-on, from the side. Instead of whirling spiral arms, we are peering at the bright galactic center through its dusty arms. The Whale Galaxy is experiencing a galactic starburst with many stars being formed in short period of time. Even as you peer deep in to the galaxy and outward along its spiral arms, look for blue patches of stars. These are hot, young stars.

The Whale Galaxy is a fairly close galaxy; at least in the neighborhood. It is found about 30 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs. The galaxy is not even on both sides, suggesting a whale or fish shape to astronomers who first discovered and studied the galaxy.