Astronomy: M101 is the pinwheel galaxy

By Gary Zientara
Posted 5/20/20

What makes some structures repeatable at different scales?

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Astronomy: M101 is the pinwheel galaxy


What makes some structures repeatable at different scales?

There is a mathematical sequence called the Fibonacci series in which each succeeding number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. An expanding spiral mimics this series. From the micro world of DNA to the macro world of galaxies, this sequence is common in nature. Natural spirals form for different reasons but the same shape results. There must be a kind of resonance in the intrinsic structure of the universe that appeals to the spiral shape. We can only speculate why.

The galaxy M101 is found near the handle of the Big Dipper and is 21 million light years from Earth. Its more common nickname is the Pinwheel Galaxy but M33 is also known by the same name. That's why I prefer to call M101 the Chambered Nautilus Galaxy because its shape closely resembles the sea creature. They both are suspended and drift along one in an ocean of seawater and the other in an ocean of spacetime.

M101 is distorted so that its spiral arms are pushed together on one side and pulled apart on the other. The distortion on the left side of M101 resembles the tentacles of a chambered nautilus reaching out into space.

I've cropped the image to include a dwarf satellite galaxy (NGC 5477 - 20 million light years from us) orbiting M101 at the lower left corner. A far distant spiral galaxy is at the edge near the upper right corner. I could not find the designation of this galaxy. If it's similar in size to M101, I speculate it to be at least 400 million light years from us.

Gary Zientara is the resident astronomer and owner of Mount Sangre Observatory in Angel Fire.


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