Two clear nights in a row. Must be summer.
After the experiences of the previous night (90% fixing technical problems, 10% taking a picture) I had high hopes when I saw the forecast was good again.
After sunset I was setup with the telescope, autoguider and camera within 20 minutes. Everything was tracking perfectly. The majority of the session was spent getting images of M51 - the Whirlpool Galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. This is the result:
M51 is a face-on spriral galaxy about 23 million light-years away. Historically, M51 is significant for being one of the "spiral nebulae" which divided the opinions of astronomers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Was it a local (to the Milky Way) cloud of gas and dust? Or a distant version of the Milky Way? We now know it is the latter. The Whirlpool is smaller than the Milky Way - about 35% of the MW diameter. The companion galaxy on the left is NGC 5195 (also known as M51b) and is interacting with M51 in a gravitational dance being played out across the aeons.
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.