Did you know that in 1773 Charles Messier discovered the Whirlpool Galaxy? It was the first galaxy to be classified as a spiral galaxy. Other types of galaxies include elliptical (like a squashed sphere), rings, or irregular (no defined shape). Although the Whirlpool Galaxy is 15-35 million light years away from Earth, in a dark sky it can be seen with an amateur telescope or binoculars. The Whirlpool Galaxy can be found in the constellation Canes Venatici, which is near the constellations Big Dipper and Boötes.
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Initially, the Whirlpool Galaxy was known as a ‘spiral nebula’. It was not recognized as a completely separate galaxy until Edwin Hubble proved that the stars in these ‘nebula’ were so far away they had to be in separate galaxies.
The Whirlpool Galaxy is also known as Messier 51a, M51a, or NGC 5194. Messier discovered the nebula/galaxy while looking for objects in the night sky that might confuse comet hunters.
The Whirlpool Galaxy is also an interacting galaxy. Its companion is NGC 5195