This Island Universe
The Whirlpool Nebula in Canes Venatici (M51)
and Supernova 2005cs

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We live in a universe full of galaxies. Often arrayed like archipelagos in the deep cosmic sea, galaxies are usually separated from their neighbors by distances that would encompass the life span of whole species to travel. Therefore, for all practical purposes, each is an island representing a universe unto itself. The suicide rate among galaxies, however, is rather high. For example, this pair has ventured too close and is locked in a dance that will merge and ultimately alter both after many millions of more years. The more distant, small member of the pair is already paying for the waltz by disgorging massive amounts of dust, gas and stellar constituents in response to the embrace of the spiral's distorted arm.

This view also displays a rare supernova event visible on the first spiral arm, directly below the nucleus, as a bright star first seen on June 27, 2005.

Composite image:

Takahashi Mewlon 300 (f/9), SBIG ST-10XME, CFW8a and AO-7 (principally galaxy pair)
300 minutes Luminance, 120 minutes Red, Green, Blue (each)

RCOS 20-inch (f/8), SBIG STL-11000XM (principally background)
225 minutes Luminance, 45 minutes Red, 36 minutes Green, 54 minutes Blue