The Infrared Whirlpool Galaxy
Ssc2019 11d

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Observation • June 26th, 2019 • ssc2019-11d


This image shows the Whirlpool galaxy, also known as Messier 51 and NGC 5194/5195, which is actually a pair of galaxies. Located approximately 23 million light-years away, it resides in the constellation Canes Venatici.

Here we see four wavelengths of infrared light: 3.6 microns (shown in blue), 4.5 microns (cyan), 8 microns (green), and 24 microns (red) as observed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The blended light from the billions of stars in the Whirlpool is brightest at the shorter infrared wavelengths, and is seen here as a blue haze. The 24 micron observation is particularly good for highlighting areas where the dust is especially hot. The bright reddish-white spots trace regions where new stars are forming and, in the process, heating their surroundings.

All of the data shown here were released as part of the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey (SINGS) project, captured during Spitzers cryogenic and warm missions.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

About the Object

Whirlpool GalaxyMessier 51M51NGC 5194NGC 5195
Galaxy > Type > Spiral
Galaxy > Type > Interacting
Galaxy > Grouping > Pair
23,000,000 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Infrared 3.6 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 4.5 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 8.0 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 24.0 µm Spitzer IRAC


Position (J2000)
RA =13h 29m 53.0s
Dec = 47° 12' 32.1"
Field of View
10.2 x 15.9 arcminutes
North is 0.4° right of vertical