The Whirlpool Galaxy is an astrophotography classic, all swirling arms and bright stars. A new composite image of optical and X-ray wavelengths layers in a map of neutron stars and black holes within the galaxy, bright X-ray sources highlighting an ongoing galactic collision.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory recently released four of the most stunning images of galaxies we've ever seen — but these mind-blowing pictures couldn't have come into existence without the help of amateur astronomers and photographers.
The Whirlpool Galaxy looks beautiful and swirling in a visible light image (at left.) But the infrared view, at right, shows a maelstrom of chaos, revealing the dense lanes of dust around normally invisible clusters of stars.
Europe and the USA have joined forces to bring the world some beautiful images of distant galaxies. The image above, of the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, combines pictures from the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory and the Hubble telescope.