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Whirlpool Galaxy M51 - Hubble Telescope shot - Framed Picture - 20"H x 16"W


A 20"H x 16"W" framed Picture of Whirlpool Galaxy M51 - Hubble Telescope shot

The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as Messier 51a, M51a, or NGC 5194, is an interacting grand-design spiral galaxy with a Seyfert 2 active galactic nucleus in the constellation Canes Venatici. It was the first galaxy to be classified as a spiral galaxy.

Recently it was estimated to be 23 ± 4 million light-years from the Milky Way. Messier 51 is one of the best known 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 and galaxy interactions.

What later became known as the Whirlpool Galaxy was discovered on October 13, 1773 by Charles Messier while hunting for objects that could confuse comet hunters, and was designated in Messier's catalogue as M51. Its companion galaxy, NGC 5195, was discovered in 1781 by Pierre Méchain, although it was not known whether it was interacting or merely another galaxy passing at a distance. It was, however, not until 1845 that William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, employing a 72-inch reflecting telescope at Birr Castle, Ireland, found the Whirlpool possessed a spiral structure, the first "nebula" to be known to have one. These "spiral nebulae" were not recognized as galaxies until Edwin Hubble was able to observe Cepheid variables in some of these spiral nebulae, which provided evidence that they were so far away that they must be entirely separate galaxies.

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