Whirlpool Galaxy with the Mitchell Spectrograph

The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) is seen at left in an image taken with the one-meter MONET North telescope at McDonald Observatory. At right: The MItchell Spectrograph (formerly known as VIRUS-P) measured the intensity of the hydrogen-alpha emission at 246 points across the central region of the galaxy. The H-alpha emission traces the light from very young stars, and thus is a good indicator of the rate of star formation at each of these locations. Red dots indicate higher levels of star formation; the blue and black dots indicate lower levels of star formation. Credit: G. Blanc/K. Fricke/T. Jones/McDonald Obs.