M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici


Copyright 2007 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:    December 10, 2007     Griffin/Hunter Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 40D Digital SLR (modified) through 10" F/4.7 Newtonian w/ Baader MPCC 
Focal Ratio:   F/4.7
Guiding:    Auto via SBIG ST-237 through Orion ED80
Conditions:    Passing thin cirrus
Weather:    45 F
Exposure: 195 minutes total (39 x 5 minutes) @ ISO 800
Filters:    Baader UV/IR Block internal to camera
Processing:    Focused,  captured, RAW frame calibrations, alignment, stacking, Digital Development, Adaptive Richardson_Lucy deconvolution, scaling and JPEG conversion with ImagesPlus V3.  Final tweaking with Photoshop CS2.