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Messier 101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy | Astrophotography & Pics

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

M101 is a large spiral galaxy that is seen face-on. While difficult to see visually, it is an easy target for beginner astrophotographers. In this post, you will find information, images, and tips to photograph the Pinwheel Galaxy.

Object Designation: M101, NGC 5457

Also known as: The Pinwheel Galaxy

Constellation: Ursa Major

Object Type: Spiral Galaxy

Distance: 20.9 million light-years away

Magnitude: 7.9

Discovery: Pierre Méchain in1781

We have photographed the Pinwheel galaxy several times over the years with different telescopes and cameras, we'll show you each attempt below!

The Pinwheel Galaxy appears symmetrical at first, but long exposures reveal that it is obviously not. The reason for that is its dwarf companion NGC 5474, which interacts with M101 with its gravitational force.

Several other small galaxies in the surroundings of the Pinwheel are also to blame for the non-symmetrical shape of this beautiful Messier object.


M101 Astrophotography from a Dark Site in RGB-HA

June 20, 2023

Three years after our latest attempt, we decided to shoot the Pinwheel Galaxy again, but this time using our larger refractor telescope and upgraded monochrome camera.

The setup used to capture M101
The setup used to capture M101

This equipment is set up under Bortle 2 skies in Southern Utah, at a remote observatory called Utah Desert Remote Observatories.

Because we now have this remote setup, we were able to spend many nights on this target and take our time to gather data until being satisfied

We spent a total of 35 hours on this image, using four filters: R, G, B, and HA. We are overall very satisfied with the results. I at first thought that my processing was a bit too purple, but this color on this specific galaxy grew on me and I decided that I liked it as is.