This is The Whirlpool—the common name of M51, a spiral galaxy estimated to be 50,000 to 100,000 light years across. The purple dots that make it look like the biggest neon sign in the Universe are X-ray sources as seen by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory recently released four of the most stunning images of galaxies we've ever seen — but these mind-blowing pictures couldn't have come into existence without the help of amateur astronomers and photographers.
NASA has published this image showing the M51 spiral galaxy—located 30 million light years away from Earth—eating a tiny galaxy like a hamster would it a tiny burrito, which you can see on its upper left.* It was obtained using data from the Chandra X-Ray space observatory and optical data from amateur telescopes on…
The Whirlpool Galaxy looks beautiful and swirling in a visible light image (at left.) But the infrared view, at right, shows a maelstrom of chaos, revealing the dense lanes of dust around normally invisible clusters of stars.
This photo shows the power of image post-processing. It also shows that we are a tiny speck of nothingness in the middle of a fiery cosmic fluff. Enjoy the famous M51 galaxy, like you have never seen it before.
Europe and the USA have joined forces to bring the world some beautiful images of distant galaxies. The image above, of the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, combines pictures from the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory and the Hubble telescope.