When talking about a spiral galaxy, the first example of this many people use is the Pinwheel galaxy – it’s a great example of a face-on spiral. Of course, it also takes its name from its spiralling appearance, and it’s quite easy to find in the sky with your telescope. Let’s look at some facts about the Pinwheel galaxy.
Pinwheel Galaxy Facts
- The Pinwheel galaxy has a radius of 85,000 light years. This means that size wise, it is bigger than our galaxy the Milky Way, but still smaller than the Andromeda galaxy.
- The distance between the Earth and the Pinwheel galaxy is estimated to be slightly less than 21 million light years.
- Another name for the Pinwheel galaxy is the M101, or the Messier 101. This is because it is number 101 in Charles Messier’s catalog of astronomical objects.
- It was actually discovered by French astronomer Pierre François André Méchain, who along with Messier was responsible for many discoveries in the 18th Century.
- When you look up into the sky, the Pinwheel galaxy is located in the Ursa Major constellation. It is located right next to the head of the “Great Bear”, which is the name Ursa Major is known by.
- In terms of the type of galaxy, the Pinwheel fits most aptly into the spiral galaxy category.
- The Pinwheel galaxy makes up a group of galaxies named as the M101 group – it is called this as it is the largest galaxy in this region.
- The Pinwheel galaxy is different from many of the other galaxies out there as it doesn’t have a black hole at its center. However, instead it has numerous smaller black hole across it.
- Although we aren’t exactly sure how many stars there are in the Pinwheel galaxy, astronomers estimate that there are more than one trillion.
- The Pinwheel galaxy is actually a little warped and out of shape. Astronomers believe this is because of a past collision billions of years earlier.
- However, other astronomers believe that it might be out of shape due to the gravitational effects of surrounding galaxies.
- Another galaxy has been dubbed the Southern Pinwheel galaxy due to its resemblance to this one, though it’s not close to it in the night sky (it’s closer to the Centaurus A galaxy).
Common Questions about the Pinwheel Galaxy
What type of galaxy is the Pinwheel galaxy?
Most astronomers say that the Pinwheel galaxy is a spiral galaxy. However, there are some that are that the Pinwheel is more of a barred spiral galaxy, due to the stars across its center. So, you might also see it referred to as a weak barred spiral galaxy, too.
Can I see the Pinwheel galaxy?
If you’re trying to see the Pinwheel galaxy without a telescope, then unfortunately you won’t be able to. The Andromeda galaxy is the only thing outside of our Milky Way that is visible without a telescope. However, you are able to see the Pinwheel galaxy with even a small and cheap telescope.
How big is the Pinwheel galaxy?
The Pinwheel galaxy has a diameter of around 170,000 light years. This makes it quite a large galaxy, and it also has more than a trillion stars.
How many globular clusters does the Pinwheel galaxy have?
We think that the Pinwheel galaxy has around 150 globular clusters in it. This is approximately the same amount as our Milky Way.
Does the Pinwheel galaxy have any planets?
Yes, the Pinwheel galaxy does have planets all across its spiralling arms. We call planets that aren’t in our solar system exoplanets.
Overall, these are just some short facts about the Pinwheel galaxy. Although we do know some details about it, there is still so much out there that we aren’t sure of. Hopefully in the coming years we can learn more and more about the Pinwheel galaxy.