There are days — and for me it's pretty much every day — when we can all use a spectacular shot of a magnificent spiral galaxy.
Is today such a day for you? Then I'm glad to help.
But first, a brief description…
M61 is a nearly face-on spiral galaxy about 52 million light years away. It's one of a couple of thousand galaxies that co-habitate in the Virgo Cluster, the closest galaxy cluster to the Milky Way (in fact, the Local Group, our own small neighborhood of galaxies, and the Virgo Cluster are all part of the much larger Virgo Supercluster, which itself is part of the Laniakea Supercluster). These galaxies are close enough that on a May night a decent set of binoculars will reveal a dozen or more of them, if you happen to be at a dark, moonless site.
So when you point the Hubble Space Telescope and Very Large Telescope at it, what you get is detail on a brain-stunning level. Behold!
The gorgeous spiral galaxy M61, in a composite of images from Hubble, the VLT, and amateur observations. Credit: Robert Gendler, Roberto Colombari, Hubble Legacy Archive, European Southern Observatories
That image is a composite ...