There are a lot of space images out there of nebulae, galaxies, stars, star clusters, and many more, but there is only one picture that is my absolute favorite.
NGC 5194, M51, or, The Whirlpool Galaxy as it is commonly called, is a beautiful galaxy located 31 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. This majestic galaxy is perfect to watch because it is directly facing us. The two grand spiral arms reveal themselves with breath-taking red and blue colors, for the old and young stars that are so snugly nestled within the long swirls of gas and dust.
This galaxy is very appealing to the eye, with its symmetrical design, and bright yellow bulge in the middle. This is not any kind of galaxy – it is a grand-design spiral galaxy. This not a barred spiral with a large scar through its center, nor is it an unusual looking irregular or lenticular galaxy, and it is not spread out over enormous distances like some elliptical galaxies. M51 is just right.
NGC 5195 is a dwarf galaxy that lies at the end of one of NGC 5194’s spiral arms. With an almost solid color of yellow, it does not steal from its companion’s beauty; instead, it complements M51 (A) with its bright glow. This dwarf galaxy gently glides behind its larger companion. This gliding sends gravitational waves through its companion, all the while compressing gas to jump-start the star-creation process, and igniting new light in the whirlpool to add to its beauty.
With the Hubble Space Telescope’s keen eye, the true greatness of this wonderful galaxy pair is revealed, so everyone can appreciate its light, colors, length, enormity, and overall beauty. Like two graceful ballroom dancers, the two galaxies dance, spin, and move through space, ignorant to its distant observers who marvel at its every movement and its complex existence.
This is space, this is astronomy, this is science, this is nature, and this is what the universe is about. Marvel among marvel, beauty upon beauty, M51 is a fine example of the majesty that lies in the universe.