Make Your Own Spiral Galaxy

spiral galaxy NASA

As part of some science editing we’re doing here at TFCB, I’ve been reading about galaxies. Spiral galaxies specifically. I’m fascinated, partly because we live in a spiral galaxy—the Milky Way. (The image above is a NASA image of the spiral galaxy known as NGC 7331.) Galaxies are clusters of stars, gas, and dust that collect in a couple of predictable patterns, one of which is spiral shaped.

I’m also fascinated by spiral galaxies because I tested an easy make-your-own-spiral-galaxy experiment from Ron Miller, one of TFCB’s science authors—and it worked!

I love to cook, so I know that instructions don’t always lead to where you think you’re going. It’s always thrilling when a recipe, a science experiment in its own right, turns out. My spiral galaxy experiment was thrilling too because it was right on the money. And it was fun!

Spiral Galaxy Experiment [note that everything happens really quickly in this experiment so be prepared to act, and to observe, quickly]

spiral galaxy 1

[Domenica’s spiral galaxy, left]

1. Fill a large mixing bowl with water.

2. Stir the water with a large spoon for a few seconds until you get good clockwise (or counterclockwise) motion going.

3. Stop stirring the water and immediately add a few drops of food coloring to the water, each one at a different distance from the center of the bowl.

4. Marvel as the arms of a spiral galaxy form in the water right before your very eyes!

[Note that, as the water in your bowl slows down, the spiral galaxy will disappear as the water becomes one solid color.]

Give this experiment a try. Play with different food coloring to see what you like best.

And don’t forget to check in next week for more from TFCB!

(Photos: NASA, top; Domenica, bottom)