M101 – Pinwheel Galaxy

I have posted a picture of M101 in the past with a description, but since this is a new picture I will give you a new description.

M101 discovered on March 27, 1781 by Pierre Méchain was one of the last Messier objects added to Charles Messier’s catalog. Identified as a “spiral nebula” before they knew there were other galaxies in the Universe. This relatively faint galaxy can be quite a challenge to spot, and the central core is the most visible portion of it in smaller telescope with the possibility of spotting hints of the spiral arms from dark sky sites. The exact distance of the galaxy isn’t set in stone it is somewhere around 24 +/- 2 million light-years away, and has a linear diameter of over 170,000 light-years making it one of the biggest disk galaxies.

'X' Marks the spot for M101

‘X’ Marks the spot for M101

Visually from my backyard I was able to barely make out the core of this galaxy. It could have easily been mistaken as a very dim comet, or a small dim star with a slight nebulosity around it. The easiest way I found it is the surrounding stars in my finder scope. To ensure that I had this galaxy in my field of view I had to take a 30 second exposure.

M101 The Pinwheel Galaxy 03-16-13

This image is made from 39 images at 2 minutes a piece for a total of 1 hour and 18 minutes total exposure time, shot at ISO 800 – like most of my images since it seems to be the sweet spot for the Canon 350D giving me the least amount of noise per frame. I had shot a total of 45 images, but threw out a few due to a bit of star trailing caused by gear slip on my mount.

These images were extremely hard to work with considering the light pollution. I spent many hours trying everything I could to remove light pollution and preserving as much detail and color as I could.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Polar Scope for alignment

M97 and M108 – Planetary Nebula & Galaxy

M97 is one of the fainter Messier objects in his catalog located in the constellation Ursa Major. M97, also known as the Owl Nebula due to it’s circular shape and the two black holes that look like owl eyes, is a complex planetary nebula. The central star which caused the nebula is estimated at 16 magnitude, and is believed to be about 0.7 solar masses. The Owl Nebula is significantly brighter visually than it is photographically because most of the light that is emitted is in a single green spectral line. Visually this nebula is estimated between 9.7 and 9.9 magnitude – very hard to see in light polluted skies – and is estimated to be 12th magnitude photographically.

M108 is an edge-on spiral galaxy near the star Beta Ursa Majoris. This galaxy appears to have no bulge or significantly pronounced core; it is a detail-rich disk. Although faint at around 9.4 magnitude it is an easy object to spot, and I can say that it was easier to locate than M97. M108 has little evidence of well defined spiral arms, and is considered part of the the Ursa Major Cloud of galaxies.

M97 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on February 16, 1781, but was not included in Charles Messier’s printed catalog of 1781, but he had descriptions of it in his manuscript personal pre-print version.

M108 also discovered by Pierre Méchain on February 19, 1781, only three days after discovering M97. Charles Messier listed this object as “98” in his preliminary manuscript version of his catalog, but failed to include the objects location.

'X' marks the spot of M97 and M108

‘X’ marks the spot of M97 and M108

Honestly through my eyepiece in my light pollution I was able to make out M108 and with enough staring and using averted vision I was just barely able to make out M97, but knowing the look of the stars near M97 I knew I was in the right place. I could have easily over looked both of these objects if I was just quickly scanning the skies.

M97 and M108 03-09-13

This image is 36 images at 2 minutes a piece, ISO 800, and 25 dark frames. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post-processing done in Photoshop.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Polar Scope for alignment

M81 and M82 – Bode’s Galaxy and Cigar Galaxy

Two galaxies in one field of view in the constellation, Ursa Major. M81 is a face on spiral galaxy with it’s blue spiral arms forming an ‘S’ like shape around the bright central core, while M82 is a thin cigar shaped galaxy with a bright core and no spiral arms visible. These two galaxies are orbiting each other and within the last few million years they had a colose encounter where M81’s gravity greatly deformed M82 leaving it with some violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds; more detail from M82 can be seen in X-ray images of it.

'X' Marks the location of M81 and M82.

‘X’ Marks the location of M81 and M82.

M81 and M82 were first discovered by Johann Elert Bode who stumbled across them on December 31, 1774 and described it as a nebulous patch. Pierre Méchain independently rediscovered the two galaxies and reported them to Charles Messier who added them to his catalog on February 9, 1781.

M81 and M82 sketch and observation notes.

My observation can be read in the sketch above.

M81 and M82 – 03-08-2013

Image comprised of 40 images at 1 minute 30 seconds each ISO 800, 30 dark frames, and 30 bias frames. I originally had taken some flat frames, but they ended up being too dark which greatly affected the outcome of the final image, so instead I applied my typical flat frame that I follow this tutorial for. My main editing was levels and curves, with some vibrance and saturation enhancement. I also took a bright image and a darker image of the galaxies and used layer masking to combine the two together to get more out of the core of M82.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Polar Scope for alignment

M81 & M82 – Bode’s Galaxy and Cigar Galaxy

Messier 81 also called the Bode’sGalaxy is a large spiral galaxy that is about 12 million light-yearsaway from Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major. Discovered byJohann Elert Bode in 1774 and reidentified by Pierre Mechain andCharles Messier in 1779.
Messier 82 also known as the CigarGalaxy is a starburst galaxy also within the constellation Ursa Majorat a distance of 12 million light-years away. This galaxy, if youwere to be within it, would be brighter than our own Milky Way. TheHubble Space Telescope has detected almost 200 massive clusterswithin the core, also producing young stars at a very fast ratecompared to our own galaxy.
M81, and M82 are gravitationallyinteractive, also including a smaller galaxy NGC 3077. Due to thisinteraction these three galaxies have been stripped of hydrogen whichhave formed gaseous filamentary structures within the group.
‘X’ marks the location of M81 & M82
My observation: Through my telescopeMessier 81 and 82 are clearly visible as two fuzzy objects; M81 beingmore round, and M82 being a a longer object giving it it’s name ofthe Cigar Galaxy. No dust lanes are visible with either galaxy. Thebright cores of both of these fade out to the edges and make it alittle difficult to separate the core from the rest of the galaxy.Both are easily visible within the same field of view with lowmagnification. I was not able to resolve NGC 3077 with my telescope,again it could be due to the light pollution, or just that my eyeswere not properly dark adapted.
M81 & M82 with NGC 3077 as a small fuzzy blob to the upper left side.
This image is 28 images at 30 seconds apiece, 20 dark images, and 20 bias images. Taken on April 18, 2012. Stacked in Deep SkyStacker and edited within Gimp. I had to adjust curves and levelsquite a bit to bring out some of the detail and to reduce the red glow of the light pollution, but some of that red glow is still visible. I also did another stackof 4 images which I combined the two in Gimp to dim the blown outcores of both galaxies to bring out a little more detail, especiallywithin M82.

M97 – The Owl Nebula

Within the constellation of Ursa Major there lies a planetary nebula named M97 or commonly called The Owl Nebula. This little planetary nebula is located near the bottom of the cup of the big dipper near the star Beta Ursae Majoris (Merak). M97 lies relatively near by, astronomically speaking, at a distance of around 2,600 light-years from our Sun. As we view it this nebula spans 2 light-years. Due to it’s round shape and two black circles this nebula resembles an owls face.
‘X’ Marks the spot where M97 is located. Screenshot from Stellarium.
From my telescope in my light polluted skies I could just barely make it out; it’s another tricky object, like M101, to spot due to it being at an 11 magnitude and very tiny. There is a distinct star pattern surrounding this wondrous planetary nebula, and it’s close proximity to the star Merak makes it an easy object to find, despite it’s low magnitude. Also within the same field of view as M97. When viewing this object I noticed I could see it a little better by blocking out any light coming in from nearby street lights. Although the eyes of the owl weren’t visible through the eyepiece, it is easily visible in photographs.
M97 – The Owl Nebula. March 26, 2012. Click to nebulate.
This image is 18 images at 30 seconds a piece, ISO 1600, 10 dark frames, and 20 bias frames. Taken on March 26, 2012 with an Omni XLT 150 and Canon 350D prime focus. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and edited in Gimp. The image is a little noisier than I would have liked, but that’s the consequence of using a 1600ISO and adjusting levels and curves like crazy.