Monday, October 18, 2010


Welcome to Matt and Leann's blog.

We'll start you off by introducing you to the image in the background. What you see back there is a composite photograph of the Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as M51a or NGC 5194) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005.[1] On a clear night it can even be seen with just a pair of binoculars.

The Whirlpool Galaxy is a grand-design spiral galaxy. That means that it has well-defined arms, rather than looking messy or spherical.[2] The ball of light to the right is a companion galaxy (M51b or NGC 5195) which is passing behind it (from our point of view). The ball of light in the center of the Whirlpool Galaxy is believed to contain a supermassive black hole.

On each arm of the galaxy you'll note that there are dark brown splotches and bright pink splotches; the rest is bluish-white. The current understanding is that the dark splotches are clouds of gas which are being compressed. The pink splotches are where the gases have become condensed enough that stars and solar systems are actively forming. The bluish-white regions, which make up the greater part of the galaxy, are fully formed star clusters.[1]


[1]  For a really spectacular, hi-res image, go to Don't open the link—it might crash your browser. Instead, download the file and then open it on your computer.

[2] Other types of galaxies include irregular galaxies, elliptical galaxies, lenticular galaxies, and barred-spiral galaxies. See For more information on the Whirlpool Galaxy, see


  1. Your blog is awesome! It made me happy that you listed references for your information. That's so very Matt of you to write a blog post that needs to be referenced. :)

  2. I'm just glad no one thought that the title of this first post was "Insipid".

  3. Wait... it's *not* 'Insipid'? Whoa... ;-)