(1773) Messier spots another otherworldly ‘object’While searching the skies for celestial objects that might mislead comet seekers, French astronomer Charles Messier finds a cluster of stars that will later be named the Whirlpool Galaxy. It will eventually be found to have a spiral structure, the first spiral galaxy discovered, and will be plotted at over 23 million light-years away.The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as Messier 51a, M51a, and 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, but different methods yield distances between 15 and 35 million light-years. 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.
Apparent magnitude: 8.40 Absolute magnitude: 8.40 Apparent mass: 160 billion solar-mass Distance to Earth: 23,157,103 light-year (7,100,000 parsec) Constellation: Canes Venatici Galactic group: M51 Group The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5194), a classic spiral galaxy located in the Canes Venatici constellation, and its companion NGC 5195.