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Dates & Location

April 20 - 28th 2009 from the SMAP site at Weed, New Mexico. Elevation 7269 ft. Lat 32.8°N Long 195.5W

Catalogue identification

NGC 5194 - Large galaxy = M51
NGC 5195 - Smaller galaxy
Common name is the Whirlpool Galaxy

Equipment Used

Officina Stellare RC400 at 3304 mm focal length.
Paramount ME German Equatorial Mount.
Camera SBIG ST-11000M.SBIG FW-8L Filter Wheel.

TheSky V6 Telescope control
MaxIm DL V4.53 Camera control.


Where it is in space

In the nonstellation of Canes Venatici, North is to the right, East is up.
Apparent size 11.2 x 6.9 arc minutes. This equates to diameter of 38,000 light years - a little more than 1/3 of the size of the Milky Way.
Apparent magnitude 8.1.
Distance approx 31 million light years.

Acquisition Remote session using RADMIN PC control from Ravenshead, UK.
LRGB exposures:- 120:70:70:60mins total, 10 min sub-exposures,
  What it is

The Whirlpool galaxy's spiral arms and dust clouds are the birth sites of massive and luminous stars. This galaxy is having a close encounter with a nearby companion galaxy, NGC 5195. The companion's gravitational influence is triggering star formation in the Whirlpool, as seen by the numerous clusters of bright, young stars which are ionising the clouds that they formed from (HII regions). The galaxy's massive core, the bright ball of light in the centre of the image, is about 80 light-years across (a light-year is 9.6 million million km or six million million miles) and has a brightness of about 100 million Suns. Astronomers estimate that it is about 400 million years old and has a mass 40 million times greater than our Sun. This concentration of stars is about 5,000 times higher than in our solar neighbourhood.

Processing Methods

Images acquisition and telescope control with MaxIm DL V4.53  
  Data reduction and Luminence De-convolution with CCDStack.  
  Master RGB image and Master Lum Image finished with Photoshop CS2.