Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 11:21 UK

Herschel-Hubble spirals combined

By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News, Plymouth

The composite image shows the Whirlpool Galaxy, known as M51

The European Space Agency (Esa) has released a stunning image of the spiral galaxy M51, otherwise known as the Whirlpool Galaxy.

It is a composite of images taken by Europe's Herschel space observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The picture combines views of the galaxy captured at visible and far-infrared wavelengths.

It highlights the cool, dusty and gaseous regions of M51, where the process of star formation is underway.

Professor David Southwood, director of science and robotic exploration at Esa, commented: "It's a wonderful image. It gives you some sense of the resolution we're going to get (with the Herschel telescope).

"The red areas are those we have detected where we know star formation is going on. We're seeing the birth of stars already."

Launched into space on 14 May, Herschel is still in its commissioning phase.

Herschel's full wavelength range spans 55 to 672 microns. Observations at longer wavelengths do not produce images with resolutions as high as those obtained at shorter wavelengths, such as the visible light detected by Hubble.

However, Herschel's mirror is the largest infrared astronomy mirror ever launched into space, so it can take the sharpest pictures to date at the wavelengths it observes. And astronomers need to view objects at a range of wavelengths to get a full understanding of the processes taking place in those phenomena.

Herschel and Hubble make a powerful combination.

The Whirlpool Galaxy lies relatively nearby, about 35 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici.

Print Sponsor

Herschel gives glimpse of power
19 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment
Herschel telescope 'opens eyes'
14 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment
Lift-off for European telescopes
14 May 09 |  Science & Environment
World's most daunting parking job
10 May 09 |  Science & Environment
'Silver sensation' seeks cold cosmos
09 Feb 09 |  Science & Environment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific