The Whirlpool galaxy is located in constellation Canes Venatici was the first classified spiral galaxy. It is also known as Messier 51a, M51a or NGC 5194. The Whirlpool galaxy is about 30 million light years from the Earth.
The Whirlpool galaxy was discovered on 13 October 1773 by Charles Messier and given nickname” Whirlpool” due to its fine wound up structure. Its companion NGC 5195 galaxy was discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781. The radio images show that the Whirlpool and its companion galaxy are interacting. M51 is dedicated as pair of galaxies.
The Whirlpool galaxy is 76000 light years in the diameter and located at 30 million light years from the earth. This galaxy is about 43% size of the milkyway galaxy and about 10.3% of the mass of Milkyway galaxy. It consists of 160 billion solar masses. It has supermassive black hole in its centre. The spiral structure of galaxy is due to interaction between it and its companion galaxy NGC 5195 which occurred before 500 to 600 million years when it passed through main disk of M51. NGC 5195 is the dwarf galaxy which is about 25 light years away from Whirlpool galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. Star formation efficiency of this galaxy is about 1%.
In the Whirlpool galaxy, three supernovae are observed.
SN 1944I is the Ic type supernova observed in Whirlpool galaxy in 1994 which is much massive and discard most of its mass. It has brightness apparent magnitude 12.91 observed. Apparent magnitude is measure of brightness of the star.
SN 2005cs type II supernova with Apparent magnitude 14 was observed in 2005.
SN 2011dh type II supernova with magnitude 12.1 observed on 31 May 2011 having much bluer spectrum than average.
The Whirlpool galaxy is seen in dark sky condition by binoculars. During dark sky, by 100mm telescope basic outlines are visible and by using 150 mm glass its companion galaxy is also visible. By using 300mm or bigger telescope various spiral bands are visible. The Whirlpool galaxy is the brightest galaxy in M51 galaxy group which include M63, NGC 5023 and NGC 5229.
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Authored by BK Suthar.
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