Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, Messier 83

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, Messier 83 (or NGC 5236) is a stunning face-on spiral galaxy situated about 15 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Hydra. Its spiral arms are lined with dark lanes of dust and peppered with reddish, star-forming clouds of hydrogen gas. Among the deepest images ever taken of the Southern Pinwheel (integrating more than 11 hours of exposure time), this view was captured with the Dark Energy Cam (DECam), which was built by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and is mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab. Various background galaxies, which lie much farther away than Messier 83, appear around the edges of the image.
Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/ NSF/AURA, Acknowledgment: M. Soraisam (University of Illinois), Image processing: Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani & Davide de Martin

The Spiral of the Southern Pinwheel

The Dark Energy Video Camera (DECam), which was initially designed for the Dark Energy Study, has recorded among the deepest images ever taken of Messier 83, a spiral nebula playfully referred to as the Southern Pinwheel. Constructed by the US Department of Energy, DECam is installed on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab.

Astronomy enthusiasts may wonder why a cam called the Dark Energy Cam (DECam) would be utilized to image a single spiral galaxy. DECam has in reality already finished its main task, as the instrument was utilized to complete the Dark Energy Study, which ran from 2013 to2019 DECam’s ongoing operation likewise makes sumptuously comprehensive images like this one possible.

Messier 83, or the Southern Pinwheel, is located in the southern constellation of Hydra and is an apparent target for a lovely astronomical image. In other ways, nevertheless, the Southern Pinwheel probably offers a good approximation of how our Milky Method would look to a distant alien civilization.

Six different filters were used on DECam in order to produce this amazing new view of a classical beauty. Filters enable astronomers to pick which wavelengths of light they want to view the sky in. This is crucial for science observations, when astronomers need really specific details about an object, however it likewise enables vibrant images like this one to be developed.

Observing celestial objects– such as the Southern Pinwheel– with a number of various filters suggests that various details can be picked out. In all, 163 DECam exposures, with an overall combined exposure time of over 11.3 hours, went into producing this portrait of Messier 83.

Yet these observations were not simply about producing a pretty image.

” The Messier 83 observations are part of a continuous program to produce an atlas of time-varying phenomena in close-by southern galaxies in preparation for Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Study of Area and Time,” stated Monika Soraisam of the University of Illinois, who is the primary investigator for DECam’s observations of Messier83 “We are generating multi-color light curves of stars in this galaxy, which will be used to tame the onslaught of alerts gotten out of LSST utilizing state-of-the-art software application facilities such as NOIRLab’s own ANTARES alert-broker.”[2]

Developed by the US Department of Energy (DOE), DECam is installed on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at CTIO in Chile. DECam is a powerful instrument that utilizes 74 extremely sensitive charge-coupled gadgets (CCDs) to take images. CCDs are the same gadgets that are used to take images in daily cellular phone. Naturally, the CCDs in DECam are much larger, and they were specifically developed to gather very faint traffic signal from distant galaxies. This capability was important for DECam’s original function, the Dark Energy Study.

For six years DECam surveyed the skies, imaging the most far-off galaxies to collect more data to make it possible for astronomers to more examine our speeding up Universe. Taking gorgeous images such as this one need to appear a lot easier for DECam.

” While DECam has satisfied its initial objective to finish the Dark Energy Study, it continues to be an important resource for the huge community, recording sweeping views of objects like Messier 83 that both delight the senses and advance our understanding of deep space,” said Chris Davis, Program Director for NOIRLab at the National Science Structure.


  1. Data from DECam usually have an 18- month proprietary duration to permit the primary investigators who asked for the observations time to perform their research before the information are launched openly for anyone to use.
  2. ANTARES is a software tool developed at NOIRLab to process information about changing objects in the night sky and to help disperse that info to the astronomical neighborhood.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here