A Lot Going on in One Galaxy Image

Maybe I am a starry-eyed dreamer, or maybe I just treat astronomy like a little kid opening birthday presents, but every time I see a new Hubble image I am blown away by it.  Today’s mind-blowing photo is of Messier 63, the Sunflower Galaxy, located in Canes Venatici.

This image shows the spiral galaxy Messier 63, widely known as the Sunflower Galaxy. The image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble.

It shows the central region of the galaxy and out tot he spiral arms.  The arms are clearly visible due to the bright blue clusters of newly formed stars intermixed with dark patched of thick gas and dust.  In between the arms lie older, redder stars.  Closest to the centre, the yellowish glow is due to a high concentration of older stars that have migrated above the galactic disk.  They surround the very centre, harbouring a huge concentration of stars and likely a massive black hole at the centre.

The other impressive part of this image is that we can get a sense of the angle of this galaxy, that the bottom of the image shows the leading edge of the galaxy.  It’s not often we get a correct 3D perspective from a simple astronomical image, but then again it is Hubble.

In this galaxy of a few hundred billion suns, what planets and moons exist, and what life dots the distant spiral arms.  We may never know.

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