May- Whirlpool Galaxy, M3 and the Pinwheel Galaxy

M51- Whirlpool Galaxy

Among the galaxies visible in the spring sky, few are as frequently photographed as the Whirlpool Galaxy. Discovered by Charles Messier in 1773 and later recognized for its spiral structure by William Parsons, it holds a significant place in astronomical lore. With a brightness of magnitude 8.7, it is observable with binoculars under dark skies, but a telescope provides the best view.

To locate it, start at Alkaid, found at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. Then, move about two degrees southeast to 24 Canum Venaticorum. M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, lies another two degrees southwest of that star, forming one point of a flattened isosceles triangle. While smaller telescopes may reveal a circular, hazy patch, larger telescopes with an aperture of 250mm or more are required to discern its intricate structure, including the distinct spiral arms that give the galaxy its name. Keep an eye out for NGC 5195, a smaller galaxy interacting with M51.


Messier 3 (NGC 5272) in Canes Venatici, shines brightly at magnitude +5.9. It's easily observable with binoculars and presents a stunning sight through telescopes. Positioned about six to seven degrees east of beta (β) Comae Berenices, Messier 3 is best observed in the southeastern sky, near the borders with Boötes and Coma Berenices. 

Around mid-month, Messier 3 graces the sky for approximately seven to eight hours. With an 80–100mm telescope, stars at the cluster's outer edges start to resolve at around 100× magnification. However, the real spectacle lies in higher magnifications. Telescopes with an aperture of 200–250mm, under favorable conditions, reveal a plethora of stars scattered across Messier 3, particularly those nestled deep within its core.

M101- Pinwheel Galaxy

Despite its low surface brightness, M101 can be detected under a dark sky using a modest telescope and low magnification. Even at this level, you'll notice that it spans approximately a quarter of a degree in the sky, with a brighter core contrasting against its surroundings. However, discerning any detailed structure proves challenging. With a smaller telescope, you may distinguish the galaxy's nucleus and possibly detect brighter spiral arms radiating from it. A larger telescope unveils even more intricacies, particularly at higher magnifications. Beyond 100x, you can discern multiple segments within the arms and observe that the bright core is offset from the center. Look closely, and you might spot the brighter star-forming regions mentioned earlier. Try tracing an arm from the center outward; if it dims and then brightens again, you've likely encountered a nebulous region where stars are being born. A fascinating glimpse into the dynamic processes occurring within this distant galaxy.