XMM-Newton's ultraviolet view of the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)
The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51 (or NGC 5194), is one of the most spectacular examples of a spiral galaxy. With two spiral arms curling into one another in a billowing swirl, this galaxy hosts over a hundred billion stars and is currently merging with its companion, the smaller galaxy NGC 5195.
Around 30 million light-years away, the Whirlpool Galaxy is close enough to be easily spotted even with binoculars. Using the best telescopes available both on the ground and in space, astronomers can scrutinise its population of stars in extraordinary detail.
This image shows the Whirlpool Galaxy as seen at ultraviolet wavelengths with the Optical/UV Monitor Telescope on board ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory.
Observing in visible and ultraviolet light, astronomers can see the current population of stars in the Whirlpool Galaxy, since stars in their prime shine most brightly at shorter wavelengths than infrared. This image portrays the galaxy's fiercest stellar inhabitants: young and massive stars pouring powerful winds and radiation into their surroundings.