Located in the
constellation of Canes Venatici is an exquisite object known as
M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. This was one of Messier's original
discoveries. He found it in 1773 while observing a comet. M51 is
a beautiful example of a face-on spiral galaxy. The obvious
spiral shape of this object is what gave it the name, Whirlpool.
It was the first spiral galaxy to be discovered. Careful
observation reveals that this object is actually two galaxies.
The second, known as NGC 5195, is interacting with M51. The
outer regions of the two galaxies actually touch each other. M51
is located about 37 million light-years from Earth. Under dark
skies, it is an easy target for small telescopes. It is one of
the brightest and easiest galaxies to locate for the experienced