Darn Pinwheel Galaxy

Here's the place for any sights you wish to remark on

Moderators: joe, Brian, Guy Fennimore

Post Reply
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2005 1:53 pm
Location: Somerset, UK

Darn Pinwheel Galaxy

Post by Vega »

I've tried on a few occasions now to view the Pinwheel Galaxy just above Ursa Major. and cant find the thing.

I'm using a 120mm 1000mm focal length scope with 20mm and 10mm eyepeices but no joy. I might just swing round to Andromeda to keep myself galactically satisfied lol

Any advice peeps ?

Posts: 634
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:32 am
Location: Macclesfield Cheshire

Post by PaulB »

Hello Vega

M33 has a low surface brightness. You can see it if you use a lower power ep say 24 mm or 35 mm so It should be an easy object for your telescope. Pick a night when there is know Moon. October is a very good time to view M33 as it's now rideing high in the sky. The trick is to search that part of sky and look for a pale "Faint" hazey glow. That's M33 and if you're not sure wiggle your telescope very slightly you will then see that there is something there. This is an old deep sky observing trick and believe me it does work.

If you go to a dark country location try and view M33 through Binoculars a good 10x50 binocular will show you the galaxy as a small patch of haze lieing half way between Alpha Triangulum and Beta Andromeda.

Last edited by PaulB on Sun Oct 16, 2005 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Phil Rice
Posts: 182
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:27 pm
Location: Surrey

Post by Phil Rice »

Dear Vega

I have glimpsed this object only twice. Once in North Norfolk the other time in SW Ireland. Both nights moonless and practically zero light pollution. It is extreme;y difficult in my opinion, the scope I was using was 70mm aperture.

Good luck


Posts: 54
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:57 pm

Post by pete-6 »

Hi Vega,

Presumably you mean M101 in UMa (which is also, confusingly, referred to as 'Pinwheel') and not M33 in Triangulum?

M101 is a very tall order because of its low surface brighness. On the one occasion when I imaged it, I did not try looking for it with an eyepiece and I certainly couldn't see it in either the finder or the camera viewfinder on my 10" newtonian! And this was at a good dark-sky site in France! I just had to star-hop to where I guessed it was, and then take several trial shots until I had it in frame. Photographically, at least, I did capture the spiral arms though my imaging technique still needs a lot of work!

Incidentally I find Cartes du Ciel an excellent freebie aid to star-hopping and other things, if you install the add-ons it will show stars down to mag. 12 as well as all the Messiers and most of the NGCs.

M101 is on a roughly equilateral triangle with Mizar and Alkaid, if this helps at all. Best of luck!

Site Admin
Posts: 4382
Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 11:24 am
Location: Greenwich, London

Post by joe »

pete-6 wrote: my 10" newtonian! And this was at a good dark-sky site in France!
A 10" newtonian all the way to France! Must have been only room left in the car for a change of y-fronts then?

I've only seen both pinwheels from very dark sites also and even then just large faint glows in my ETX90 or binoculars. M33 is easier. The tapping of the telescope is a good trick.
200mm Newtonian, OMC140, ETX90, 15x70 Binoculars.

Posts: 634
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:32 am
Location: Macclesfield Cheshire

Post by PaulB »

:oops: I got it wrong.

M33 and M101 are very confuseing as they are both called the Pinwheel Galaxy. Perhaps the reason why M101 is so elusive is because at this time of year Ursa Major is low in the sky and will remain so untill the end of the year when it starts it's northerly climb. Try looking for it after midnight at the begining of January and use a lower power eyepiece it should appear as a faint ghostly glow.



Posts: 6560
Joined: Sat Dec 11, 2004 8:18 pm
Location: Manchester

Post by Cliff »

Dear Vega et al
Although as PaulB said himself he initially got his "pinwheels" mixed up, I think he could well be right in mentioning the possibility of M101 being not suitably placed as a reason for having difficulty in seeing the galaxy.
M101 can be seen from a decent darkish site on the Pennines less than 20 miles from here with 10 x 50 binoculars.
Best wishes from the Grumpy old Codger Cliff

Post Reply