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The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)

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The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)

Image credit: Chandra/NASA

Courtesy of the Chandra Observatory, astronomers can view the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) in spectacular colors. This composite image uses optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope shown through the reds, blues, and greens. Chandra detects the bright purples. The spectacular spheres of purple reveal high energy X-ray sources such as X-ray binaries (XRBs), which are binary star systems where one star in the system (either a neutron star or black hole) is capturing material from its companion. Through studying M51 for over a decade, astronomers believe there are around eight black holes eating material from their companion stars.

The Whirlpool Galaxy is a Spiral Galaxy similar to the Milky Way. However, unlike the Milky Way, M51 is merging with a companion galaxy as shown in the upper portion of the photograph. When two galaxies merge, the gas and dust within their arms heat up and create the beautiful, luminous colors reflected in this photo!

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