Another target (there were three in total) this Y-chromosome-debutante evening was M51. I wanted it to be M31, the great Andromeda galaxy, but she was gone for the season. So Messier 51 (or NGC5194), The Whirlpool Galaxy, was my gal. The Whirlpool Galaxy is alive in Canes Venatici (hunting dogs)… a small constellation near Ursa Major (larger bear). Ursa Major is more commonly known by part of it’s composition – what we all grew up calling “The Big Dipper” is actually the tail of this big bear constellation. Anyhoo, so Canes Venatici is a neighboring constellation that is the home to this little gem. If you follow the “handle” of the Big Dipper to the star on the end (Alkaid) and then look slightly south (as in, away from polar north relative to Alkaid), you will find Messier 51. M51 was discovered by Charles Messier on October 13, 1773. It was originally thought to be about 37 million light years away and up until just within the last few years when we observed light from two different supernovas within the galaxy that provided more accurate measurements placing it about 25 million light years away. A smaller dwarf galaxy, NGC5195, collided with the larger galaxy we refer to as the Whirlpool Galaxy, NGC5194, and gravitationally ripped some of the material making up NGC5194 off as it passed. This smaller galaxy is what you can clearly see at the outermost tip of one of NGC5194’s arms. These photons that have been travelling 1.36146056 × 10^20 miles to say hi!
I also managed to image M65 and the Leo Triplet. The Leo Triplet, also known as the M66 group, is about 35 million light years away, so the farthest of anything I shot last night. It consists of M65, M66, and NGC3638. It is conveniently named due to it being in the constellation Leo. This is a very cool target that deserves a revisit after the truck out of the ditch taking out mailboxes.