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The Whirlpool (M51) Galaxy Essay

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Updated: Apr 1st, 2020

The size of the structure

The Whirlpool Galaxy is a clearly visualised galaxy in the universe. It is estimated that the galaxy has a diameter of about 11.2′. The galaxy is characterised by a disk that has a radius of roughly 43,000 light years (Nemiroff and Bonnel par. 1). It has about 160 billion solar masses.

Thus, the galaxy is one of the biggest solar bodies that are unique in the universe. The big size and bright features of the galaxy enable scientists to view the solar body from the Earth with the use of magnifying instruments such as telescopes (Fukui and Kawamura 547).

How far?

Scientists who are concerned with studies with regard to the M51 Galaxy have not agreed on the actual distance of the solar body from the Milky Way Galaxy. However, different studies have given distances within the range of 15,000,0000 to 35,000,000 ly.

The most recent study estimated that the galaxy is about 23,000,000 million ly in relation to the Milky Way Galaxy (Fukui and Kawamura 547; Nemiroff and Bonnel par. 1). There have been problems with regard to the actual approximations of the distance, because the galaxy is quite far from the Earth.

The beautiful colours

Scientists have been able to visualise the M51 Galaxy under dark sky conditions. Different magnifications show that the M51 Galaxy has beautiful colours. The colours vary slightly when viewed using visual light and infrared light. In visual light, the colours of the galaxy are pale purple and black spots are also common.

On the other hand, when it is viewed in infrared light the structure appears bright purple (Salo and Laurikainen 378). The colours of the structure are natural, because they are reflections of the materials that constitute the galaxy. Also, they are seen at all times when scientists view the solar body. Artificial colours could change every time they are visualised.


If the structures of the Milky Way and M51 galaxies are visualised well, then some similarities could be noted. First, the two galaxies show that the spiral arms are important components. Second, there are centres in the two galaxies, which could be the origin of the spiral arms. Third, the centres in the two solar bodies seem to have the highest levels of brightness (Salo and Laurikainen 379). This could imply that the centres could have similar materials that make them give the highest amounts of light.

I would be able to travel to this galaxy

I am happy that I have enhanced my knowledge about heavenly bodies. I am optimistic that one day I would travel to the M51 Galaxy. Research in the future will enable me to understand more about the M51 Galaxy. I think that I would go to the outer arms associated with the galaxy.

Thoughts, reactions and questions

My important thought about the galaxy is the process of formation of its beautiful natural colours. It presents the best mix of colours among all galaxies. It is interesting to learn about its interaction with its neighbouring galaxies. I would pose the following questions with regard to the galaxy:

  1. What is the role of the centre of the galaxy?
  2. What is the amount of gas that is associated with the galaxy?
  3. What is the role of stellar matter of the M51 Galaxy?
  4. What could be the exact diameter of the galaxy?

Works Cited

Fukui, Yasuo, and Akiko Kawamura. “Molecular clouds in nearby galaxies.” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 48 (2010): 547-580. Print.

Nemiroff, Robert, and Jerry Bonnel. Astronomy picture of the day. 2002. Web.

Salo, Heikki, and Eija Laurikainen. “N‐body model for M51–I. Multiple encounter versus single passage?.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 319.2 (2000): 377-392. Print.

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