Southern Pinwheel Galaxy Shines In New Photo
The southern Pinwheel Galaxy, or M83, shines in infrared in this new photo taken by NASA's WISE space observatory. Full Story.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

A new photo taken by a NASA space telescope has revealed the brilliant southern Pinwheel Galaxy in a new light, though it?s a cosmic half-pint when compared to our own Milky Way.

The new infrared galaxy photo depicts the Messier 83 (M83), a spiral disc that faces up spot-on from 15 million light -years away in the constellation Hydra. But the galaxy is only 55,500 light-years across. Our own Milky Way galaxy is nearly twice as wide. ??

The photo was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, an infrared space telescope launched in December 2009 to search for galaxies, asteroids and other objects that shine brightest in the infrared range of the light spectrum. [More WISE telescope photos.]

M83 is also known as the southern Pinwheel Galaxy because of its location in the southern hemisphere. Another well-known Pinwheel Galaxy is an object known as M101, a spiral galaxy that is visible in the northern hemisphere in the constellation Ursa Major.

Like the Milky Way, the stars, dust and gas in M83 are primarily found in the galaxy's long, sweeping arms that twist inside a thin plane. This galactic plane is visible because of M83 appears face-on when observed from Earth, rather than edgewise like the Milky Way. ??????

Higher rates of star formation exist in M83's arms when compared to the rest of the disk since the material and stars there are denser than elsewhere. In the new WISE image, red light depicts very bright, short-lived stars, and green light shows dust. Both are warm emissions, in contrast to the blue and cyan-colored light from most of the other stars seen. ?

From the center protrudes a bulge of dust and stars, shaped partially shaped like a sphere and partially like a bar. The structure puts M83 the barred spiral galaxy category, according to a WISE mission announcement.