How to Find the Whirlpool Galaxy, Messier 51

How to Find the Whirlpool Galaxy, Messier 51

Whirlpool Galaxy

Messier 51, the Whirlpool Galaxy is an interacting spiral galaxy about 23 million light years away. It was discovered by Messier in October 1773. This is a favourite object to be viewed by amateur astronomers. The interacting smaller galaxy appears to have passed through the Whirlpool galaxy. It has an unexplained galactic centre as it demonstrates two cloud rings that form a cross indicating the position of a black hole.

Image credit: NASA and European Space Agency

Other Names:

Messier 51


NGC 5194

Lord Rosse's Nebula

Question Mark

Telescope Image to Scale:

M51 from a telescope

This image is 30 arc minutes by 30 arcminutes which is about the size of the full moon.


Magnitude = 8.8

Surface Brightness = 13

Telescope Aperture City Suburbs Rural Dark Sky
4 inches 9 10 11 12.5
5 inches 9.5 10.5 11.5 13
6 inches 10 11 12 13.5
8 inches 10.5 11.5 12.5 14
10 inches 11 12 13 14.5

Use this chart to estimate if you can see the object from your location with your telescope. For more help on using this chart click here.

How to See It:

Although officially residing in Canes Venatici the easiest way to find this galaxy is by using the Big Dipper asterism as this is easily found in the northern sky. It's co-ordinates are: RA 13h 30m 27.37 DEC +47° 07′ 28.2″ if you are using guiding software.

How to find Messier 51, the whirlpool galaxy

To find more space objects have a look at the constellation guide by clicking the link or go back to the list of deep space objects.

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