Scientists are seeing unprecedented detail of the spiral arms and
dust clouds in the nearby Whirlpool galaxy, thanks to a new Hubble Space
Telescope image, available at . The
image uses data collected January 15 and 24, 1995, and July 21, 1999, by
Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, designed and built by JPL. Using
the image, a research group led by Dr. Nick Scoville of the California
Institute of Technology, Pasadena, clearly defined the structure of the
galaxy’s cold dust clouds and hot hydrogen, and they linked star clusters
within the galaxy to their parent dust clouds.

The Whirlpoool galaxy is one of the most photogenic galaxies. This
celestial beauty is easily seen and photographed with smaller telescopes and
studied extensively from large ground- and space-based observatories. The
new composite image shows visible starlight and light from the emission of
glowing hydrogen, which is associated with the most luminous young stars in
the spiral arms.

The galaxy is having a close encounter with a nearby companion
galaxy, NGC 5195, just off the upper edge of the image. The companion’s
gravitational pull is triggering star formation in the main galaxy, lit up
by numerous clusters of young and energetic stars in brilliant detail.
Luminous clusters are highlighted in red by their associated emission from
glowing hydrogen gas.

This image was composed by the Hubble Heritage Team from Hubble
archive data and was superimposed onto data taken by Dr. Travis Rector of
the National Optical Astronomy Observatory at the .9-meter (35-inch)
telescope at the National Science Foundation’s Kitt Peak National
Observatory, Tucson, Ariz. Scoville’s team includes M. Polletta of the
University of Geneva, Switzerland; S. Ewald and S. Stolovy of Caltech; and
R. Thompson and M. Rieke of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md., manages space
operations for the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA’s Office of Space
Science, Washington, D.C. The institute is operated by the Association of
Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA under contract with
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Hubble Space
Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the
European Space Agency. JPL is a division of Caltech.

Additional information about the Hubble Space Telescope is available
at . More information about the Wide Field and
Planetary Camera 2 is available at

Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgement: N. Scoville (Caltech) and T. Rector (NOAO)