M102 - The Spindle Galaxy

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgment: W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa)

Hubble’s sharp vision reveals a crisp dust lane dividing M102, also known as the Spindle galaxy, into two halves. This edge-on view of M102 highlights the galaxy’s structure: a subtle, reddish bulge surrounding a bright nucleus, a blue disk of stars running parallel to the dust lane and a transparent outer halo. M102’s dust lane is slightly warped compared to the disk of starlight. This warp indicates that the galaxy might have experienced gravitational tidal disturbances in the distant past. These disturbances were likely caused by an interaction with a nearby galaxy, as M102 is the largest member of a small cluster of galaxies. Some faint, wispy trails of dust can be seen meandering away from the disk out into the bulge and inner halo of the galaxy. The outer halo is dotted with numerous globular star clusters, gravitationally bound clusters of nearly a million stars each. Background galaxies that are millions to billions of light-years farther away than M102 are also seen through its halo. Pierre Méchain, a French astronomer and colleague of Charles Messier, discovered the Spindle galaxy in 1781 — the same year that he discovered the first two of his eight comets. M102 is located 44 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco and has an apparent magnitude of 10.7.

Facts about M102 by Keith Turnecliff

It can be observed using a small telescope and is most easily spotted during July.

This star chart represents the view from Long Itchington for mid July at 10pm.
Credits: Image courtesy of Starry Night Pro Plus 8, researched and implemented by Keith Turnecliff.