Looking Up: Pinwheel Of Fortune

May 8, 2017

M83: Sometimes called The Thousand-Ruby Galaxy
Credit Image Credit: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope, European Southern Observatory - Processing & Copyright: Robert Gendler / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up we get face to face with M83, a beautiful galaxy , also known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy.

If you have a clear view to the south, you may just be able to catch a glimpse of a remarkable object in the southern Colorado sky – the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy!

This very cool object was first recorded in 1752, and Charles Messier added it to his famous catalogue of celestial objects, as M83, in 1781. This spiral galaxy, which we see face on, is special because of its beauty but also because of some very cool science associated with it.

Hubble image showcases star birth in M83, the Southern Pinwheel
Credit Credit for Hubble image: NASA, ESA, R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute), M. Dopita (Australian National University), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee / nasa.gov

You can’t go too much farther north than Colorado and still be able to see this wonder of the southern sky. M 83 is very lovely in a telescope. It has a strange asymmetrical look to it, with one of its spiral arms seemingly wrapped much tighter around the galaxy center than the other arms.

And M83 is also special historically. It was the third galaxy discovered, after the famous Andromeda Galaxy and Andromeda’s satellite galaxy, M32. And M83 was the first galaxy beyond our local group of galaxies to be discovered. If you want to visit the Southern Pinwheel, you’ll have to move fast – it’s moving away from us at over 750,000 mph. That’s pretty far out!

If you’d like to take a closer look at M 83 or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit CSASTRO.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!