Pinwheel Galaxy Facts

Pinwheel Galaxy Facts
A spiral galaxy with about 1 trillion stars located in the Ursa Major (also called the Greater Bear) constellation is the Pinwheel Galaxy. The galaxy has well-defined spiral arms and dust lanes extending all the way around the body of the galaxy. The Pinwheel was discovered in 1781 by astronomer Pierre M├ęchain and was communicated to Charles Messier who verified its position. He has described it as a "nebula without star, very obscure and pretty large, 6' to 7' in diameter, between the left hand of Bootes and the tail of the Great Bear." The galaxy is about 70% larger than the Milky Way Galaxy or over twice its diameter.
Interesting Pinwheel Galaxy Facts:
The galaxy has a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and is 21 million light years from Earth.
The Pinwheel Galaxy's spiral arms has more than 3,000 starbirth regions, and has the most of any similar type galaxy so far observed.
The starbirth regions are called HII regions due to the abundant amounts of hydrogen they contain.
The HII regions are ionized by a large number of very bright and hot young stars and are capable of creating hot superbubbles, which is a cavity hundreds of light years across.
There is a fairly small central bulge in the Pinwheel Galaxy with about 3 billion solar masses. However, almost no stars are born there compared to many more born in the spiral arms.
Many galaxies have an extremely massive black hole at its center, astronomers have found none in this galaxy.
The galaxy also contains many x-ray sources emanating from exploded stars and regions around stellar-mass black holes.
It is among a group of gravitationally interacting galaxies, which results in the galaxies' shapes becoming distorted.
The Pinwheel is known and catalogued as Messier 101, M101, or NGC 5457.
A very detailed image produced by the Hubble Space Telescope of the galaxy was released by NASA and the European Space Agency in 2006. It was the largest and most detailed image of a galaxy.
Four supernova have been discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy, with the last one being recorded in 2011.
In 2015 a bright, glowing red nova was observed in the galaxy by an astronomer in Romania.
Its unusual pinwheel pattern has most likely been created by energetic winds of dust and gas that are expelled and intertwine as two large stars orbit each other.
The 27 million light years from Earth is considered at a relatively close distance.
The Pinwheel Galaxy is so large it often distorts smaller nearby galaxies due to its immense gravity.


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