M101 is a beautiful face-on spiral galaxy. Unfortunately I could only take 11 ten-minute frames of this jewel, and I will certainly do more when I will be able too again. Summer is closing in, and nights are getting shorter and shorter.
The Pinwheel Galaxy, as it’s known, is 25 million light-years away and with a diameter of 170,000 light-years it is nearly twice the size of the Milky Way. It has a disk mass on the order of 100 billion solar masses, along with a small bulge of about 3 billion solar masses. Another remarkable property of this galaxy is its huge and extremely bright H II regions, of which a total of about 3,000 can be seen on photographs. H II regions usually accompany the enormous clouds of high density molecular hydrogen gas contracting under their own gravitational force where stars form. H II regions are ionized by large numbers of extremely bright and hot young stars. On photographs M101 can be seen to be asymmetrical on one side. It is thought that in the recent past (speaking in galactic terms) M101 underwent a near collision with another galaxy and the associated gravitational tidal forces caused the asymmetry. In addition, this encounter also amplified the density waves in the spiral arms of M101. The amplification of these waves leads to the compression of the interstellar hydrogen gas, which then triggers strong star formation activity (Wikipedia).