Containing gas, dust, and hundreds of billions of stars, the Whirlpool Galaxy spans 90,000 light-years of space. Take a tour of this majestic galaxy from the view of the Hubble Space Telescope.
This Hubble image of the Whirlpool illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars.
The Whirlpool and this smaller galaxy are affecting each other gravitationally. The force they exert on each other propels the birth of new stars in the Whirlpool.
Stars are born in the Whirlpool's spiral arms as gravity crushes gas and dust together.
Hot, newborn stars blaze blue. The specks are clusters of hundreds of thousands of stars, not individual stars.
Old, sedate stars live in the galaxy's central bulge. These stars are much cooler than the newborn stars in the arms.
Dark lanes of silicon and carbon dust block visible light.
Clouds of hydrogen gas, heated mainly by nearby stars, give off a red glare.
Hubble's observations of galaxies such as the Whirlpool continue to help astronomers better understand the dynamics of these giant objects and how their components, such as ancient star clusters, developed early in the universe's history.