The Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 101, M101 or NGC 5457) is a face-on spiral galaxy distanced 21 million light-years (six megaparsecs) away from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. Discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 27, 1781, it was communicated to Charles Messier who verified its position for inclusion in the Messier Catalogue as one of its final entries.
M101 is a large galaxy, with a diameter of 170,000 light-years. By comparison, the Milky Way has a diameter of 258,000 light years. It has around a trillion stars, twice the number in the Milky Way. It has a disk mass on the order of 100 billion solar masses, along with a small central bulge of about 3 billion solar masses.
M101 has a high population of H II regions, many of which are very large and bright.M101 has five prominent companion galaxies: NGC 5204, NGC 5474, NGC 5477, NGC 5585, and Holmberg IV.