The Pinwheel Galaxy is a part of the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper or Great Bear. This galaxy has been estimated to be about 21 million light-years from earth and it’s one out of billions in our universe! The Pinwheel Galaxy is thought to be home to more than a trillion stars. In fact, it’s one of the closest galaxies to Earth and about twice as big as our Milky Way! The Pinwheel Galaxy was discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781. He is also credited with many other discoveries, including comets and celestial bodies alike!
Facts About The Pinwheel Galaxy
- The Pinwheel Galaxy is twice the diameter of our Milky Way, and it’s formally defined as a kind of spiral galaxy.
- The Pinwheel Galaxy’s star birth regions outnumber any other type of galaxy so far observed. These HII regions, which are defined by copious amounts of hydrogen gas, have more than 3,000 stars being born each day!
- The Pinwheel Galaxy is one of the most iconic galaxies in our universe. With a relatively small central bulge, it’s filled with star birth action as this area spews new stars like crazy!
- Imagine 100 billion suns, all in one place. That’s what the Pinwheel galaxy weighs!
- The astronomers were in for a surprise when they found that the Pinwheel Galaxy doesn’t have one of these black holes at its heart.
- The Pinwheel galaxy is a weakly-barred spiral galaxy, and astronomers have even gone as far as to call it one of the most beautiful in the sky.
- The Pinwheel Galaxy has many otherworldly sources of radiation. Such bizarre and unexplained phenomena emanate from exploded stars, stellar-mass black holes (places where the material is heated as it falls into the void), or regions around these mysterious beings.
- The Pinwheel is a galaxy in the Whirlpool Galaxy Group that interacts with other galaxies gravitationally, as a result of which their shapes are distorted.
Pinwheel Galaxy Profile
|M101, Messier 101, or NGC 5457
|About 170,000 light years
|Distance from earth:
|21 million light years
|1,000 billion M
|Ursa Major (The Big Dipper)
|Astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781
|Estimated number of stars:
|At least 1 trillion
Pinwheel Galaxy The Star Maker
The Pinwheel Galaxy is one of many Spiral galaxies in the Universe. It’s a star producer, with over 3,000 locations where stars are born along its arms.
Scientists have discovered a new type of galaxy cluster that they call “HII regions” for short. HII stands for the huge amounts of Hydrogen gas inside these clusters, which exist because stars are mainly made up of hydrogen and helium.
The Pinwheel Galaxy is a spiral galaxy with unusual features. Located in the middle of the Pinwheel are what scientists call “bulges,” or groups of stars that form an equivalent mass to 3 billion suns!
Unlike other areas on this galactic wonderland such as its curving arms where new and old stars alike congregate, these central bulge regions have very few star productions going on.
A supernova is a phenomenon that occurs when stars die. They are so bright they can even block out light from other galaxies! Supernovas produce the majority of heavy elements in our universe.
Not one, not two, but four supernovas have been spotted in the Pinwheel Galaxy!
A Romanian astronomer reported a luminous red nova in 2015 that was likely caused by two stars colliding and becoming one. Red novas are often accompanied by gamma-ray bursts which can be seen across galaxies when they happen!
Stellar-Mass Black Holes
The Pinwheel Galaxy is a unique galaxy because it doesn’t have any black holes at its center. What the galaxy does contain are many x-ray sources that could be hiding these elusive objects from detection by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
As stars die, their material falls into stellar-mass black holes and heats up as it is consumed. This creates an output of x-rays that can be used to map the universe, like a lighthouse illuminating dark waters with its beam.
Seeing the Pinwheel Galaxy
The Pinwheel Galaxy is a galaxy that has an unusual shape, which was caused by gas and light clouds between two large stars. In 2006 NASA released the biggest photo ever taken of this particular type of celestial body.
The Hubble telescope was launched into earth’s orbit in 1990 and has captured some pretty amazing images along the way. This specific photo includes several layers that make it seem like you’re looking at a galaxy with night-vision goggles, an ultra-violent camera, x-ray vision, and a regular camera all at once!