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Messier 83 - the "Southern Pinwheel Galaxy" in the constellation Water snake

Description of object:

Messier 83 is the central galaxy of the so-called M83 group of galaxies. It is a group of galaxies adjacent to the local group, which extends over the constellations of Water Serpent (Hydra), Centaur (Centaurus) and the southern part of Virgo. The M83 group is a subgroup of a larger group of galaxies, the central galaxy of the second subgroup is NGC 5128 - Centaurus A, a large "starburst galaxy" and one of the strongest radio sources in the sky. The two groups are physically close to each other and do not seem to move relative to each other, which is why it is often regarded as a single, larger group of galaxies.

Messier 83 is located at a distance of about 15 million light years from the solar system in the constellation Hydra (water snake). With a diameter of about 50,000 light years, it is only half the size of the Milky Way, but otherwise very similar to our galaxy. It has a clearly visible spiral structure with pronounced H-II regions and many open star clusters and a central bar of old stars and is classified as a so-called intermediate spiral - between a normal spiral galaxy and a barred spiral. In M83, supernova explosions are common, 6 in the last century alone.

Messier 83 was the first galaxy discovered outside the Local Group, and the third of all galaxies, after the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and M32, both of which are in the constellation of Andromeda. M83 was discovered in 1751 by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille.
The Hubble image on the left clearly demonstrates the origin of the proper name "Southern Pinwheel Galaxy" and shows hundreds of thousands of individual stars, thousands of star clusters and hundreds of supernova remnants in the spiral galaxy M83.

The latest generations of stars in M83 form mostly in clusters at the edges of the dark, spiral dust orbits. These brilliant, young clusters are only a few million years old and produce huge amounts of ultraviolet light. This light is absorbed by the surrounding diffuse gas clouds and makes them glow in pink hydrogen light.

« credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

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