M51 & NGC 5195 -- Galaxies in Canes Venatici
Whirlpool Galaxy & Companion
In large amateur telescopes M51 is a real treat.  This face-on spiral galaxy shows its delicate
spiral structure in my 18-inch Dobsonian without imagination on a good night.  With my 6-inch
refractor from the suburbs this beautiful galaxy morphs into a fuzzy-ball with a bright core, with
occasional hints (which maybe real or not) of the spirals.  However, even in a smaller telescope
M51 stands out do to its interaction with another galaxy (NGC 5195) which passed near M51,
10-million years ago, and is currently receding on M51’s far side.  The core of the companion
galaxy appears to me as bright as the core of M51, but significantly smaller in the eyepiece.  In
my Dobsonian I can make out the trail of material that still links the two galaxies as they pulled
stars, gas and dust from each other during the pass.  Try as I might, it was beyond my refractor
to detect the bridge on the night of the drawing.  In any telescope seeing the twin galaxies
together is a fine sight and one that I will return to enjoy many times over.