M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici


Copyright 2010 Hap Griffin


Another of my favorite astronomical objects...the exquisite Whirlpool Galaxy, known as M51.  Actually, this object is two galaxies caught in a gravitational cosmic  dance.  The larger spiral is NGC 5194 and the smaller disrupted galaxy is NGC 5195, although the combination is often called simply, M51.  The strong spiral arm structure is thought to be caused by the interaction of these two neighbors, whereby gas in the galaxy was compressed in some regions, forming hot blue star forming regions.  

M51 lies at a distance of 37 million light-years. 


Date/Location:    January 18, 2010     Griffin/Hunter Observatory    Bethune, SC
Camera: QSI 583wsg
Filters: Astrodon E Series Generation 2 LRGB
CCD Temperature: -20 C
Instrument:    Planewave CDK 12.5"  
Focal Ratio:   f/8
Mount: AP-1200
Guiding:    Auto via the QSI camera's built in Off-Axis Guider mirror and a Starlight Express Lodestar Guider
Conditions:    Clear and cool
Weather:    45 F, still
Exposure: 280 minutes total (10 x 10 minutes Luminance binned 1x1, 12 x 5 minutes each in RGB binned 2x2)
Capture: CCDAutopilot 4 w/ Maxim DL Camera Control, focused automatically w/ FocusMax   
Processing:    Frame calibrations, alignment and stacking with ImagesPlus v3.80.  Finishing in Photoshop CS4.