31 million light-years

A superb face-on spiral galaxy, the Whirlpool Galaxy, or Messier 51, is a popular target for amateur astronomers. However, to celebrate its 15th anniversary in space, the Hubble Space Telescope was trained toward this perfect spiral. Special filters highlight the red glow of enormous hydrogen gas clouds, and the image shows how Messier 51 is interacting with its much smaller neighbour, the yellowish NGC 5195.

Credit: Image made in visible light by S. Beckwith for the NASA / ESA Hubble Heritage Team.

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