Messier objects are some of the most imaged objects in the universe. In part that’s because many of them are so visibly appealing. A good example of that is the Whirlpool galaxy, M51, which recently received an even more dramatic visual representation with a new photo. In it, the magnetic fields that are holding the galaxy together and tearing it apart at the same time are clearly visible. And it is even more stunning to look at.
Astronomers have long known about the magnetic fields in some parts of the galaxy, but SOFIA’s High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera (HAWC+) filled in the chaotic scene around the galaxy’s outer reaches.
Part of that chaos is likely induced by another galaxy, NGC 5195, which is starting to interact with the Whirlpool galaxy. It is likely strengthening the magnetic fields in the space between the two galaxies. The effects of those fields will eventually be felt throughout the entire galaxy, but it will take missions of years for that to happen. In the meantime we can appreciate another bit of astronomical wizardry and watch the chaos evolve from afar.
Takahashi Epsilon 180-ED Paramount ME II ZWO ASI-2600MC Total integration: 15 hours