WHIRLPOOL GALAXY, M51

Figure 1.  The Whirlpool Galaxy is a faint smudge inside the cross-hairs wthin the constellation Ursa Major (The "Big Dipper").The "speckle" pattern looks like noise, but it's really a field of faint stars captured by a long exposure (as shown in the next figure, which is a blow-up of a small region centered on the Whirlpool Galaxy).  9th magnitude stars are barely visible.  The image is 40 degrees wide.  North is at the top.  [2001.03.29, Minolta 35-mm camera,strapped to Meade ETX125EC for guiding, 50mm f/1.7, 2.5-minute exposure, Kodak Elite Chrome ISO 400, resolution-spoiled for web page display].

Figure 2.  Two-times enlargement of above image (less resolution degradation for web page display), showing Whirlpool Galaxy in crosshairs.  The faintest stars are magnitude 9.2.

Figure 3.  Two-times expansion in scale, but using different picture.  The bright star in the upper left is the "end of the handle" star.  The dotted lines trace a path to the Whilpool Galaxy, located above the arrow.  Notice that M51 appears to be a double smudge, having brightnesses in the ratio of about 3 to 1 (their magnitudes are 8.4 and 9.6).  Notice the different-colored stars.  [2001.03.23, Mamiya 645 "medium format" camera, 45mm f/2.8 lens stopped to f/5.6, mounted to Meade LX-200 10-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope for tracking and occasional hand-guiding adjustments,30-minute exposure, Kodak Portra 400 NC film.]

Figure 4.  Twice as close, showing spiral arm structure of the main Whirlpool Galaxy component. The faintest stars in this image are magnitude 13.3.  [2001.04.23/24, using Nikon F3 with 400 mm f/5.6 telephoto lens, attached to Meade LX200 10-inch SCT for tracking and hand guiding corrections, Fujicolor Superia 400 film, pushed to ISO 800, average of four 10-minute exposures.]

Figure 5.  Same scale, just using an "astro" CCD.  [SBIG ST-8XE CCD, 293 mm EFL telephoto lens, f/16, LRGB of 12-minute exposures using a True Tech Color Filter Wheel placed in front of the telephoto lens, 2003.02.22 UT, Hereford, AZ residence, 4650 feet ASL]

Figure 6.  Only slightly closer, but using a Nikon film camera at the prime focus of a telescope. The main (southern) component is now clearly seen as the one with spiral arms, which the other component lacks.  Stars of magnitude 14.7 are visible in this image.  [2001.04.22/23, using Meade LX200 10-inch SCT, f/6.9, Nikon F3 camera body at prime focus, 10.1-minute exposure with Fujicolor Superia 400 film.]

m51 2004.05.29 C14HS

Figure 7Zooming in by a factor of 2.5 shows more spiral arm detail. FOV = 23 x 28 'arc. [2004.05.29, Celestron CGE-1400, prime focus Hyper Star, f/1.86; SBIG ST-8CE CCD, unfiltered, 10x30s, median combine; Hereford, AZ]


Figure 8. FOV = 11 x 16 'arc. LRGB total exposure times are 24, 11, 17 and 63 minutes. FWHM ~ 3.0 "arc.[14-inch Meade LX200GPS, focal reducer, SBIG AO-7 tip/tilt image stabilizer, SBIG CFW-8, SBIG ST8XE CCD; 2007.04.26; Hereford, AZ]

Figure 9.  Detail of previous image with contrast and brightness adjusted to show spiral arm details. Notice how bright the galactic center is, and also note the wavy dark lane in the spiral arm above and to the right of the center.

  __________________ THE FOLLOWING PICTURE WAS TAKEN BY THE PROFESSIONALS ________________________

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NASA Hubble Space Telescope and Kitt Peak National Observatory picture.

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This site opened:  August 26, 1998.  Last Update:  April 26, 2007