Pinwheel Firework: Stunning Telescope Image Captures Grand Design Spiral Galaxy
This stunning image clearly displays the well-defined arms of the spiral galaxy NGC 4254, also known as the Coma Pinwheel or Messier 99. Because of its distinctive pinwheel shape with prominent arms, it’s called a grand design spiral galaxy.
It was discovered on March 17, 1781, by French astronomer Pierre Méchain. He reported it to fellow French astronomer Charles Messier, who included the object in the Messier Catalogue of comet-like objects. Modern technology has allowed us to observe galaxies like this in significantly greater detail compared to when it was first observed by Méchain and Messier in the 18th century.
NGC 4254 is a grand design spiral galaxy in the northern constellation Coma Berenices approximately 49,000,000 light-years from the Milky Way. In Latin, Coma Berenices means “Berenice’s Hair” and refers to Queen Berenice II of Egypt, who sacrificed her long hair as a religious offering.
This image is a composite of data taken with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), co-owned by ESO. The VLT data, shown in blue and purple tones, was captured with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument, mapping the distribution of stars. The ALMA data – shown here by the red and orange regions – originates from cold clouds of gas which can eventually collapse into stars. Comparing these two datasets allows for a better understanding of how stars form.
This image was taken as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) survey, which produces high-resolution images of nearby galaxies across all wavelengths of light. This will allow astronomers to learn more about the diverse range of galactic environments found in our Universe.