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Whirlpool Galaxy
Half size lp whirlpool galaxy 2x
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Photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows, in stark detail, the bright "central bulge" of the Whirlpool Galaxy, where a storm of star birth is taking place.

Facts of interest about the image

Text identifies the image's features and traces the observation of this massive galaxy, since the late 1700s.


This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the stellar fireworks in the core of the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51. A ground-based image showing the companion galaxy believed to be responsible for much of the new star birth is also included. A labeled inset shows the regions described in the text.

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.

A component in a compare/contrast activity. Have students compare the features/structure of this galaxy to those of the colliding galaxies found in the related materials below. A T-chart or Venn diagram would be a good organizational tool to use for this activity. Examples of Graphic Organizers are included in the related materials.

Related materials

HubbleSite press release: "Hubble Reveals the Heart of the Whirlpool Galaxy"

HubbleSite press release: "Hubble Celebrates 15 Years of Spectacular Images"

Amazing Space resources by type: Graphic Organizers

Amazing Space resources by topic: Galaxies