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M101: The Pinwheel Galaxy
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Photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

This “face on” view of M101, nicknamed the Pinwheel Galaxy, showcases a spiral galaxy’s well-known features.

Facts of interest about the image

The text points out the well-defined arms and other typical spiral galaxy features visible in the image and gives an idea of the size of the galaxy.

Classroom activity

Included is an inquiry-based classroom activity that focuses on the image and text.


This image from the Hubble Space Telescope showcases the well-known features of a spiral galaxy, as seen in M101, nicknamed the Pinwheel Galaxy. A labeled inset shows the regions described in the text. Also of note are background galaxies that are visible through the galaxy’s thin disk. Includes a classroom activity.

6-12, but the material can be adapted for use in other grades at the teacher's discretion
How to use in the classroom

Teachers can use this lithograph as:

An engagement tool in an inquiry-based lesson. Have students study the image side of the lithograph. Ask them to write down any questions they have about the image. When the students are finished, their questions can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Ask students to find the answers to their questions by reading the back of the lithograph and/or the related materials listed below.

  • Have students exchange papers so that each student has someone else's questions. Then have them find the answers to the other students' questions by reading the back of the lithograph and/or the related materials listed below.

  • Gather the questions into a list by asking students to volunteer to read their questions while you or another student records them on the board or overhead. Ask students to raise their hands if they had the same or a similar question. Count the number of hands raised and record this number next to the question. Once all the student questions have been added to the list, have students search for the answers to their questions in the text on the back of the lithograph. When they complete that task, ask them to decide if each of their questions was answered completely, answered partially, or not answered at all. Go through the original list and place an "A" in front of the questions that were answered completely, a "P" for those that were partially answered, and an "N" for those that were not answered at all. Determine if the most commonly asked questions were also completely answered. Encourage students to do further research to find answers to the unanswered questions.

A content reading tool. Have students read the back of the lithograph and then write a quiz for the class.

An example of a spiral galaxy. Use the inquiry-based classroom activity called "In Search of Spiral Galaxies" that is included with the PDF lithograph.

Related materials

HubbleSite press release: "Hubble's Largest Galaxy Portrait Offers a New High-Definition View"

Amazing Space resources by topic: Galaxies