M100 (NGC 4321)
Distance: 56 Million Light Years

Right Ascension: 12 : 22.9 (hours : minutes)
Declination: +15 : 49 (degrees : minutes)

text copyright Robert Gendler

M100 has received considerable observational attention by astronomers in recent years for a variety of good reasons. Being the brightest and one of the closest of the Virgo galaxies its structure has invited detailed telescopic scrutiny of its structure and has provided astronomers with important insights regarding the interplay of galaxy dynamics and star formation. M100 is a spiral with a very pronounced nuclear bar at its center and a large prominent circumnuclear star forming ring (CNR). Astronomers now recognize that barred systems are the precursors of the nuclear ring phenomenon. Observational evidence and computer simulations have shown that bars provide the mechanism for transporting interstellar gas into the central regions of galaxies.

The presence of a bar is believed to place a substantial gravitational torque on the galaxy's disk components. The torque is of such a degree that the dynamics of matter distribution within the galactic disk becomes dramatically altered. The outcome is that gas and stars tend to collect in so called "resonance rings" which form along the inner and sometimes outer regions of the disk. The innermost resonance ring forms a narrow band around the central 3000 light years of the galactic nucleus and is known as the Inner Linblad Resonance (ILR). Gaseous and stellar matter from the disk becomes redistributed into the ILR. The effect of gas rushing into the tight space of the inner resonance ring sets in motion the collapse of molecular clouds and triggers the formation of large numbers of stars. The starbursts can occur randomly throughout the CNR and span different time epochs which may overlap. Observations of the CNR of M100 reveal populations of new stars from time periods ranging from 15 to 25 million years ago. Some areas in CNR of M100 have continuously formed stars for the last 100 million years.

A Type 1a supernova was discovered in M100 on Febuary 4th 2006 by the Japanese amateur astronomer Shoji Suzuki and Italian astronomer Marco Migliardi. SN2006X is a type 1a supernova and the 5th discovered in M100 since 1900. The others were SN 1901B, SN 1914A, SN 1959E, and SN 1979C. The most commonly accepted explanation for type 1a SN is that they are the outcome of a carbon-oxygen white dwarf accreting matter from a nearby companion star, typically a red giant.