Friday, June 22, 2012

M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici

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M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy
Messier 51 The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici

The Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as Messier 51a, M51a, or NGC 5194) is an interacting grand-design spiral galaxy that is estimated to be 23 ± 4 million light-years from the Milky Way Galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is one of the most famous galaxies in the sky. The galaxy and its companion (NGC 5195) are easily observed by amateur astronomers, and the two galaxies may even be seen with binoculars. The Whirlpool Galaxy is also a popular target for professional astronomers, who study it to further understand galaxy structure (particularly structure associated with the spiral arms) and galaxy interactions. Wikipedia
This image was created using data from last year combined with data I captured in April 2012. It consists of 142 individual sub-frames, each of 60 seconds duration (the most I can get out of my EQ5 mount without star trails becoming a problem). The sub-frames - or subs - were stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (DSS), and the resultant tif file was processed in Photoshop CS5. For those of you already familiar with DSS, there's a vid on stacking multiple sessions on my Youtube channel here. For those of you not familiar with DSS, there's a (rather lengthy) vid on how to use it here :)

This is a relatively bright and easy target and is a good one to aim for once you've got the hang of using a scope and camera. Once this blog gets off the ground properly, I'll post a JargonBuster page, to give you an idea of what all the technical stuff means. I also hope to post a blog for each of the more popular targets that us amateurs like to aim at, giving you an idea of where it is and the best way to approach imaging the thing.

Promised blog on DSLR/Tripod imaging will be with you shortly.

May your skies be forever cloudless :)



  1. As a newbie to this amazing hobby, i can already tell just from reading this blog and watching the videos you have put up on Youtube that you are going to help me out alot in the future. Keep it up and thanks for making everything so easy to understand :)

  2. Hi Doug!

    I don't have a YouTube account so I can't thank you over there. But now that your blog is up, I can finally say something. Great work on the videos mate! I have learned a lot from them and hope to learn even more in the future! Keep up the good work!

    Chris (Norway)

  3. Thanks Chris :) What the weather like over there? :)

  4. Rain, rain and more rain... :( Feels like I'm back in Ireland visiting the in-laws! :p

  5. This blog is a great idea Doug!
    I did some lunar photography, but want to step up to deepsky, and no doubt have lot's to learn and fail before succes.
    My first deepsky target last night was M13 with my EOS and 6" refractor comprised of 20x30" + darks but after DSS, M13 looks a bit too 'greenish' to my feeling... so got guite some testing to do.

    Stefaan - Koekelare, Belgium

    1. Hi Stefaan. Shame on me for this very late response - I do apologise :)
      Feel free to post your M13 image (and any others you may have done since of course) on my facebook page. The link is at the top of this blog :)

  6. Hi Doug.....Finally some information I can understand. I'm one of the masses. Here in Western Massachusetts we get a few more nice viewing nights. Thanks and keep up the good work. Best for me to begin at the beginning. Using a Pentax KX and a 50mm f1.2 manual lens.

    1. Hi NC (no name so I assume NC are your initials!). Thanks for that kind comment. I'm very behind on this stuff - the next blog is half written, but haven't found the time to finish it. And I need to get some more youtube tutorials up as well. No pressure ;)