Incredibly detailed photo of the Southern Pinwheel captured by Dark Energy Camera

The image seen below is the spiral of the Southern Pinwheel captured using the Dark Energy Camera originally designed for the Dark Energy Survey. The image is one of the deepest images ever captured of Messier 83, a spiral galaxy more commonly known as the Southern Pinwheel. The Dark Energy Camera was built by the US Department of Energy and is mounted on the Victor M. Blanco four-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).

While taking incredibly detailed images of the Southern Pinwheel isn't what the Dark Energy Camera was initially designed for, the camera has completed its main job. The Dark Energy Survey ran between 2013 and 2019. The observatory allows members of the astronomical community to apply for time to use the camera, and the data collected is processed and made publicly available.

Messier 83 is located in the southern constellation of Hydra. It's oriented almost entirely face on as seen from the Earth, allowing us to observe its spiral structure in extreme detail. The galaxy is about 15 million light-years away, making it relatively close to the Earth in astronomical terms. It has a diameter of around 50,000 light-years, taking it smaller than the Milky Way with a diameter of 100,000 to 200,000 light-years.

Astronomers used six different filters on the camera to create the image seen above. Filters allow astronomers to select which wavelengths of light they want to view in the sky, which is crucial for science observations. Limiting specific wavelengths allows for colorful images to be created. Researchers point out that the dark tendrils in the galaxy are lanes of dust that block out light while clustered bright red spots are caused by glowing, hot hydrogen gas identifying the areas as hubs of star formation.

Researchers used 163 Dark Energy Cam exposures with a total combined exposure time of over 11.3 hours to make the image seen above. The image is certainly beautiful and shows what Earth-based telescopes and their instruments are capable of.