Galactic Embrace

In the constellation Canes Venatici is Messier object 51 (M51), the Whirlpool Galaxy. Its distinct shape resembles an overhead view of a hurricane or, less dramatically, a pinwheel. Curved, bright arms grow out of its hub-like galactic bulge and wrap part way around the galactic disk. It is easy to see the spiral pattern in the Whirlpool Galaxy because it faces us at an angle that gives us a spectacular overhead view rather than a side view.

It is the existence of these spiral arms that give such galaxies as the Whirlpool (M51), Andromeda (M31), and our own Milky Way the name spiral galaxies. But what exactly are spiral arms? We have said a good deal about spiral arms in Chapter 21 without saying how we think they got there to begin with.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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