The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, better known as Messier 83, is a barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Hydra approximately 15 million light-years from Earth. This spiral galaxy was discovered by the French astronomer Nicola Lacaille in 1752, later Charles Messier entered it into his catalog as number 83.
Latest Image of M83
Messier 83 is among the most popular choices for astronomical images in the universe since it is oriented at a perfect angle towards Earth. The origin of the image you see above, however, may surprise you.
In most cases, we see Hubble images of M83 but this time, the image was taken by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), known for its use during the Dark Energy Survey which has now been put on hold. The DECam, however, never stopped operating and is being used for different kinds of observations.
The image was created using six different filters meaning that it combines six different wavelengths of light. This is what makes it one of the sharpest and most detailed astronomical shots ever taken. This technique allows astronomers to observe a wider specter of details separately and then combine them in a single colorful shot.
This new wave of observations has a long-term purpose. They are part of the preparations for the upcoming project called the “Legacy of Space and Time Study (LSST)” which will be carried out with the upcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory. Set to begin in 2023, this new decade-long study will observe nearby southern galaxies.
Now that we’ve discussed the brand new image, how about we discuss the Messier 83 galaxy in detail.
Structure and features of Messier 83
The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (M83) was the first galaxy to be discovered outside the Local Group, which houses the Milky Way. A noticeably large bar extends over a third of the galaxy’s length. It actively sucks in the surrounding material and is most likely the cause of active star formation in the galaxy.
Years ago, the Hubble telescope revealed that the core of Messier 83 is double. However, this does not necessarily mean that there are two supermassive black holes in the center of South Pinwheel. It is possible that an orbiting stellar disk revolves around one black hole, which creates the illusion of duality.
However, none of the possible nuclei of the galaxy coincides with its center. Also, there is a possibility that the duality is caused by the fact that Messier 83 once merged with another galaxy.
Like the Milky Way, most stars in M83 are located on a thin disk of dust and gas from which large spiral arms emerge. Spiral sleeves are places where the disk is a little denser and saturated with more stars and gas, and with more star clusters.
Where there are star formations, very bright but short-lived stars and significant dust accumulations (in green and red in the photo) can be seen. M83 belongs to the cylindrically spiral galaxies because its central bulge, composed of stars and dust, has a sphere-like component and a lattice-like component.
In the last century, astronomers noticed 6 supernovae located in the Southern Pinwheel galaxy: SN 1923A, SN 1945B, SN 1950B, SN 1957D, SN 1968L, and SN 1983N. In addition, more than 300 supernova remnants have been found.
In 2014, scientists discovered the relatively light black hole MQ1, which intensively absorbs the surrounding bodies and dust.
How to observe Messier 83
The sufficient proximity of the Messier 83 galaxy to us allows us to see it even with 10 x 50 binoculars – it will look like a luminous spot with a bright core. A telescope with an aperture of 150 mm will allow you to see the dark spots of the galaxy, and with an aperture of 250 mm – to study the spiral structure and dark dust lanes of the galaxy.
The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy is located on the border of the constellations Hydra and Centauri, 6.5 degrees south and 3.15 degrees east of Gamma (γ) Hydra, 6.2 degrees west of Phi (φ) Hydra.
Although the Messier 83 galaxy does not rise high above the northern hemisphere’s horizon, it can be safely observed during the spring.
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• Garner, R. (2017, October 06). Messier 83 (the Southern Pinwheel).
• McGlaun, S. (2021, February 10). Incredibly detailed photo of the southern Pinwheel captured by dark Energy Camera.
• NOIRLab. (n.d.). La galaxia espiral del molinillo del SUR – Una Cámara diseñada PARA revelar los Secretos MÁS profundos de nuestro Universo CAPTURA la galaxia del molinillo del Sur con un detalle ESPECTACULAR.
• NOIRLab. (n.d.). Zooming on m83.
• Science X. (2021, February 08). Camera captures the southern pinwheel galaxy in glorious detail.