ESA/NASA’s Hubble space telescope captured an impressive shot of a galactic ‘sunflower’ also known as Messier 63. The photo was released Friday by the U.S. space agency who discovered the sunflower galaxy.
Messier 63 was dubbed the Sunflower Galaxy due to its intriguing makeup. The galaxy’s spiral arms are in a tight formation similar to the way seeds are arranged at the core of a sunflower.
The intriguing spiral galaxy was photographed by Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). WFPC2 is the telescope’s optical instrument that was most used by researchers who control the machine due to its high-resolution and sharp wide-field sensors.
The tool is also equipped with 48 color filters that can provide images of remote space objects in wavelengths that range from far-ultraviolet to near-infrared.
NASA reported that the moniker of Messier 63 was not a coincidence since its arms resemble very much the pattern of a sunflower. On the other hand, NASA was not the first to detect the unusual galaxy.
Who Discovered the Sunflower Galaxy
The Sunflower Galaxy was first spotted in the late 1700s by a French astronomer called Pierre Mechain, but its scientific name was inspired by Charles Messier who made public the galaxy in his 1781 famous astronomical catalogue listing nebulae and galactic clusters.
The catalogue’s goal was to help comet hunters and professional astronomers distinguish between fixed sky objects such as galaxies and space bodies that were on the move. The space objects in the catalogue were later dubbed as “Messier objects” although Messier wasn’t the one who discovered them.
The Messier 63 galaxy is a deep-space object that can be observed within the constellation Canes Venatici. Unlike most of spiral galaxies Messier 63 (M63) has many short spiral arms that get increasingly crowded at its center.
Astronomers estimate that the galaxy is located 27 million light-years away. The space object belongs to the M51 Group, a group of spiral galaxies whose brightest member is the Messier 51 galaxy also known as “The Whirlpool Galaxy.”
The Hubble Space telescope, which captured the Sunflower Galaxy in all its splendor, was put on low orbit by a team made of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) in 1990.
For 35 years, Hubble was the workhorse space telescope for both agencies and it is still operational. But it is nearing its end of life as its hardware is both technologically decrepit and physically worn out. In a recent statement, however, NASA announced that the telescope may be able to last 15 to 25 more years.
Image Source: Flickr
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