Enchanted Skies


M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (imaged from 'Upham', NM)

The Whirlpool Galaxy Map of the region near M51


Object Information                                            Imaging Details

M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, is a beautiful spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici. It's estimated to be about 37 million light years away and shines at a fairly bright magnitude 8. M51 is especially interesting because is in the process of interacting with another galaxy, NGC 5195. The core of 5195 is clearly visible, but if it had arms, they've been pretty much eradicated by the larger M51. Only a faint halo of stars remains around the core of 5195.

M51 is an excellent observing target, and is very easy to locate. Trace the line between the last two stars of the handle of the 'Big Dipper', then make a 90 degree turn from the last star (Alkaid). M51 is about 3.5 degrees away. The galaxy's arms are faintly visible in scopes with apertures in excess of 8 inches (4-6" will do if you have really dark skies and really good eyes). In a large aperture scope, the galaxy's details really come to light.

I imaged this object at ASLC's 'Upham' dark sky site. Transparency was excellent; Seeing was average.

Clicking the above image will bring up a much larger field of view and a somewhat higher image resolution.


Celestron NexStar GPS11

Canon 300D (type 1 modified)
Misc. Optics:
Giant Easy Guider (f/5)
30 x 4 minutes @ ISO 800
Through off-axis guider using GuideDog and a ToUCam.
Images converted to tifs using Photoshop CS3. Nebulosity used to stack the images. Additional processing (curves, sharpening) with PS CS3.

Home           Galleries          Galaxies

Enchanted Skies - Astrophotography by Rich Richins (all images copyright, Rich Richins)