Categories: Astrophotos

Astrophoto: Stunning Detailed Look at the Whirlpool Galaxy by John Chumack


Wow! Astrophotographer John Chumack has done it again with a spectacular, long exposure view of the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51. “This is my best and most detailed image of M51 to date, and now my longest exposure on a single object,” John said. “Definitely a lot of work, but I now feel it was worth all the processing time, which actually exceeded the 17.5 hours of imaging time!”

Visible are faint tidal tail structure details. “I can see several dust lane structures running through the tidal tail as well as faint background galaxies behind the tidal tail!” John said.

This long exposure image was taken over seven separate nights in early 2010, 2011 with John’s homemade 16″ F4.5 Newtonian Scope. See more details below, or on Flickr. You should also check out John’s website, Galactic Images, where you can see all his beautiful handiwork.

John used a QHY8 Cooled CCD camera and a modified Canon Rebel Xsi DSLR camera. Data from both cameras were used, and both employed a celestron coma corrector and Astronomiks CLS filter employed.

Calibrated Bias, Darks, Flats, Darks for flats, in Deep Sky Stacker via Sigma Reject, both camera data sets were combined and resized to match in Maxim DL, initially color balanced in Nebulosity, Gradient XT was used to remove Light pollution Gradients, Luminance Layered and final color balance in Adobe.

The Whirlpool Spiral Galaxy is actually two colliding Galaxies in the Constellation of Canes Venatici, and can be found a few degrees from the end star in handle of the Big Dipper. The smaller companion that M51 is colliding with is called NGC-5195. M51 sits at 23 million light years away from Earth.

Thanks John!

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group, post in our Forum or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at and and Instagram at and

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