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Whirlpool Galaxy

Question Mark Galaxy, Rosse's Galaxy, M51, NGC 5194

Proper NamesWhirlpool Galaxy, Question Mark Galaxy, Rosse's Galaxy
Messier NumberM51
NGC/IC NumberNGC 5194
ConstellationCanes Venatici
Right Ascension13h 29m 53s
Declination+47° 11' 43"
Distancec.28,000,000 light years
c.8,600,000 parsecs
MagnitudeApparent: +8.9
Mean DiameterApparent: 8.44'
Actual: c.55,000 light years
Hubble TypeSpiral class c
Optimum VisibilityApril / May (Usually visible from northern latitudes)
NotesThe Messier Number 'M51' is sometimes used to refer to both the Whirlpool Galaxy and its companion NGC 5195. In that case, the Whirlpool itself is identified as 'M51a'.

A loose spiral galaxy in the constellation of Canes Venatici, about thirteen million light years from our own Milky Way Galaxy. Because the Whirlpool is aligned so that we see it 'face on', its spiral structure is very well defined. It is associated with a smaller attendant galaxy, NGC 5195.

Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas

Location of the Whirlpool Galaxy

The Whirlpool Galaxy belongs to a drift of galaxies scattered across the constellations Ursa Major and Canes Venatici. It is far too faint to see with the naked eye, but not hard to find in the sky with a telescope - it lies a little to the south and west of Alkaid, the tail-star of Ursa Major.

Direction to the Whirlpool Galaxy

The Whirlpool Galaxy is not far from the Northern Galactic Pole in the sky, meaning that it is far 'above' the plane of our own Galaxy. The Whirlpool itself is much too far away to show on this diagram.


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