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Astr110 Photography Projects, Spring 2010

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Whirlpool Galaxy , Ross DeYoung

Whirlpool Galaxy

This is the Whirlpool Galaxy, easily seen as a spiral galaxy. This very well known galaxy was discovered by Charles Messier on October 13, 1773. The smaller galaxy in the picture, the companion of M51, was not discovered 8 years later by Pierre Méchain. About 65 years later, the Whirlpool Galaxy was discovered to have its spiral structure; this was one of the first spiral galaxies observed. The pronounced spiral shape is thought to be the result of the companion, NGC 5195. Located slightly southwest of the last star in the Big Dipper’s handle, the Whirlpool Galaxy is relatively easy to view with a simple telescope on a dark night. It is located about 37 million light years from earth.

Both the M51 and NGC5195 Galaxies can be seen in the above picture (M51 being the larger of the two). The sweeping arms of the spiral are easily seen. There are hints of blue, red and green scattered throughout the image. The angular size here is 5.24 arcminutes. Using the distance of 37 million light years, I have calculated this galaxy to have a diameter of 56,360 light years. Since other methods of measurement have found the Whirlpool galaxy to be 31 million light years away, the stated diameter varies from source to source. Some sources show the linear size to be closer to about 60 million light years.

References:
Christensen, Jon. "Whirlpool Galaxy Deep Field." Astronomy Picture of the Day. <http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap090526.html>.

Scoville, N. and Rector, T. "Whirlpool Galaxy in Dust and Stars." Astronomy Picture of the Day. <http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap060219.html>

Frommert, Hartmut and Kronberg, Christine. "Messier 51." Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. <http://www.seds.org/messier/m/m051.html>

Right Ascension (J2000) 13:29:53.3
Declination (J2000) +47:11:48.0
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 300 seconds in BVRC
Date observed

March 3, 2010 (BVRC)