M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy


    M51 (NGC 5194), Magnitude 8.4 Sc Spiral Galaxy, Size 11.0'x7.0', Constellation: Canes Venatici.


Image Details:

Back in the supposed good old days of the 1960s, I yearned for a good look at M51, the delicious Whirlpool. I had to wait for better eyepieces, telescopes, and electronic imagers before I was able to see it in a style at least reminiscent of the lovely Hale 200-inch photo I loved so much, though.

M51 and its little buddy, NGC 5195, have obviously had a falling out. 5195 is grossly distorted, there's a stream of stars connecting the two (the famous bridge), and M51 itself has had it shape modified from the Grand Spiral design to something bordering on elongated and slightly weird. Despite appearances, 5195 is not in the same plane as the main galaxy--it is in the background and is receding. M51 is the chief member of a small group of galaxies about 37 million light years distant.

Not only did the Stellacam bring home the spiral shape of this galaxy, it showed the subtle bridge in real time...

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