Galaxies

Messier 101 The Pinwheel Galaxy

M101, Messier 101, Pinwheel Galaxy

Messier 101 The Pinwheel Galaxy

Distance: 23 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 7.9
Size: 22 Arc Minutes
Type: Spiral Type Sc
Telescope: Takahashi TOA-130
Camera: QSI 683
Mount: AP 900
Exposure: L 12×900 Bin 1, R 17×450 Bin 2, G 20×450 Bin2, B 30×450 Bin 2

Messier 101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It is about 70% larger than our own galaxy with a diameter of 170,000 light years. It is estimated to contain about one trillion stars with about 100 billion of them similar to our Sun. M101 is a face on spiral galaxy, however the shape of the galaxy is asymmetrical due to gravitational interactions with other galaxies. This is apparent by the offset of the core from the center of the galaxy. M101 also contains over 3,000 HII regions which are gaseous areas illuminated by young bright stars. Most of the HII regions appear on one side of the galaxy and it is thought that the interaction with a neighboring galaxy is the reason. Messier 101 also contains many young star clusters that contain very hot blue stars. This is very apparent in the arms giving the galaxy its bluish color.

This image was captured in two nights. It is very high in the sky at sunset so I was only able to capture about 5 hours per night. I did luminance and red the first night then blue and green on the second night. The image was captured from a dark site with a SQM of 20.69. The conditions were good with clear skies, an average temperature of 60F, and humidity at 50%.

Messier 65

M65,NGC 3623

Messier 65

Distance: 35 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 9.3
Size: 8 x 2 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral Sa
Telescope: RC 10” 2000mm FL
Camera: QSI 683
Mount: AP 1100
Exposure: L 17×600 Bin 1, RGB 18×300 Bin2

Messier 65 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Leo. M65 is about 100,000 light years in diameter and is home to about 200 billion stars. The bright core area contains mostly older stars and it is thought that star formation is mostly over with the exception of some smaller regions in the arms. Recent studies suggest that the variance in age of the stars from the core to the outer arms is not that great. There is a large dust lane in the outer arm and it contains a few areas where star formation is likely.

M65 is thought to have had some gravitational interaction with nearby galaxies M66 and NGC3628. This interaction has slightly warped the spiral arms of the galaxy. Messier 65, Messier 66, and NGC 3628 form what is commonly known as the Leo Trio. The three galaxies are often photographed together using a wide field telescope. All three galaxies have had prior interactions but it is thought that Messier 66 and NGC 3628 were the most recent.

This image was captured from my house in a Bortle 6 region. The humidity was between 70-80% with little wind. The luminance frame was captured in one night and the RGB was captured on another night. Typical for this time of year is the returning marine layer which flows in before midnight on most nights.

Messier 87

M87,Virgo A,NGC 4486

Messier 87

Distance: 60 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 8.6
Size: 7 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Elliptical
Telescope: 10” RC
Mount: AP 900
Camera: QSI 683
Exposure: L 17×600 Bin 1, RGB 12×300 Bin 2

Messier 87 is an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. Also known as Virgo A, M87 is a very large elliptical galaxy and appears featureless when compared to spiral and irregular galaxies. At 120,000 light years in diameter it easily surpasses our Milky Way galaxy in size and also in star count. But this diameter is just the main part of the galaxy. When you take in the halo surrounding the galaxy the diameter is close to 1,000,000 light years! Everything about M87 is huge including the 15,000 globular clusters dispersed throughout the galaxy. It is thought that some of these globular clusters were stripped away from nearby galaxies due to past interactions. For comparison, our Milky Way galaxy contains about 200 globular clusters. It has been estimated that M87 is home to several trillion stars compared to about 400 billion star in our galaxy.

At the center of Messier 87 is a super massive black hole that has the mass of 3.5 billion suns. Ejected from this area is a massive spiral jet moving away from the core at close to the speed of light. I was barely able to capture it but for a stunning image captured by the HST click here. This jet is cylindrical in shape but has several knots that appear about 60 parsecs from the core. The jet tapers off much like a puff of smoke at its furthest point from the core.

This image was captured from my home in a Bortle 6 zone with a limiting magnitude of 5.5 and an SQM of 18.9. The sky was clear with humidity varying from 70-85%. This image was captured in one night.

NGC 3628 The Hamburger Galaxy

NGC 3628,Hamburger Galaxy,Leo Trio

NGC 3628 The Hamburger Galaxy

Distance: 35 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 9.5
Size: 14 x 3.6 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral sc
Telescope: 10” RC
Mount: AP 900
Camera: QSI 683
Exposure: L 11×600 Bin 1, RGB 18×300 Bin 2

NGC 3628 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Leo. It is an edge on galaxy with a dark dusty belt in the middle that is sandwiched by a much lighter halo giving it the popular nickname, the Hamburger galaxy. NGC 3628 has a couple interesting features such as starburst activity and a long tidal tail. The starburst activity was studied in 1996 and it was determined that the source originated near the galaxy core. This starburst activity accounts for accelerated star formation in the galaxy. The long tidal tail was studied in 1998 and was measured at 80,000 parsecs in length with four active star formation regions. The tidal tail also consists of similar material as the galactic core of NGC 3628 leading to the conclusion that it may have originated from NGC 3628. The Hamburger galaxy also contains globular clusters. A study from 2003 that concentrated on listing globular clusters in edge on galaxies came up with a count of 497 +/- 110 globular clusters in the halo of NGC 3628.

NGC 3628 is also part of the Leo Trio of galaxies. This is a trio of galaxies listed as Messier 65, Messier 66, and NGC 3628. All three galaxies are listed at 35 million light years from earth and all three are spiral galaxies. Visually and when viewed with amateur equipment the Hamburger galaxy is my favorite of the three.

This image was captured at a dark sky site with a limiting magnitude of 6.48 with a SQM of 20.86. This image was captured in one night and the conditions were clear and dry but with a steady wind of 5 MPH gusting to 15 MPH.

Messier 51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

M51, M51a,M51b,NGC 5904

Messier 51

Distance: 31 Million Light Years

Magnitude: 8.4       M51a

Magnitude: 10.5     M51b

Size: 11 x 7 Arc Minutes M51a

Size: 5 x 5 Arc Minutes M51b

Galaxy Type: M51a Spiral Sc

Galaxy Type: M51b Dwarf

Telescope: 10”RC

Camera: QSI 683

Mount: AP 900

Exposure: L 11×300 Bin 1, RGB 11×150 Bin 2

Messier 51 is a spiral galaxy located in the constellation Canes Venatici. The spiral arms show well in short exposures and are active star forming regions containing thousands of nebulous areas along with hundreds of young star clusters. A 2011 research paper from Seoul National University has found about 19,600 HII regions in this galaxy. This beats any prior attempts to catalog these areas because the earlier attempts were based on ground observations that limit the resolution (1.8” per pixel) and ability to resolve these small objects. The new counts are based on images from the Hubble Space Telescope which has a resolution of .05” per pixel with a point source FWHM of .1”and can define these areas much better. The image used for the study covered a 7.2’ x 10.2’ area of sky. To put the resolving power of Hubble in perspective, if you could see as well as Hubble and you were in New York City you could see two fire flies one meter apart in San Francisco!

M51 is actually two galaxies that are gravitationally bound with M51a being the large spiral galaxy and M51b as the smaller fuzzier one.

M51a is an active star forming galaxy partly due to its interaction with M51b. Observations show that when M51b passed through M51a it excited the region and accelerated star formation. M51b has moved through M51a from front to rear and will move from rear to front in the future. The theory is that this cycle will continue until both galaxies become one. At question is the timing between these passings but one model suggests 100 million years, another 300 million years, and another at 500 million years. Many new star clusters containing Type O and B stars are located in the spiral arms of M51a and this gives the arms their bluish color. Many reddish nebulous regions are also contained in the arms and this is the fuel for future star generation. The central core of the galaxy contains many of the older stars in the galaxy as indicated by their reddish yellow color. Also noticeable are many dust lanes in the arms.

M51b is classified as a dwarf galaxy (Wiki) even though it is 20,000 light years across (NASA). A 2011 research paper by Seoul National University calls M51b a barred lenticular SB0 galaxy. A 2006 research paper from Seoul National University found that M51b contains a rare type of globular cluster called faint fuzzy star clusters. These faint fuzzy star clusters are much larger than typical Galactic globular clusters and also much redder but are relatively young at 1 billion years. What the authors of this paper also noticed was that their location in the galaxy roughly matched the northern spiral arm of M51a indicating gravitational interaction induced their creation.

As a side note, this is the first galaxy image with my new 10” RC. I kept the exposure times short because of high clouds and humidity. Typical spring weather here!

[SEDS, Wiki, Seoul National University 2006 + 2011, Hubble Site.org]

 

 

Messier 104 The Sombrero Galaxy

Messier 104,M104,NGC 4594

Messier 104 The Sombrero Galaxy

Distance: 28 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 8.0
Size: 9 x 4 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral Sa-Sb + Elliptical
Telescope: 10” RC
Mount: AP 900
Camera: QSI 683
Exposure: L 15×600 Bin 1, RGB 20×300 Bin 2

Messier 104, aka the Sombrero galaxy, is a hybrid elliptical/spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo. The two most prominent features are the large bright halo and the dust lane across the galaxy. Also prominent in short exposures are spiral arms that are partially obscured by the halo. The classification of an elliptical galaxy with spiral arms was made in 2012 using the Spitzer space telescope. It is not understood how a galaxy can be spiral in shape yet have characteristics of being an elliptical galaxy.

The outer halo contains about 2000 globular clusters which is more than 10 times the amount in our Milky Way. The age of these clusters ranges from 10-13 billion years which is very similar to the ages of the globular clusters in our galaxy. It is estimated that there are several hundred billion stars in M104 spread out over the 50,000 light years diameter of the galaxy. In addition to all of the globular clusters, there have been 294 cataloged planetary nebulas in Messier 104.

The dust lane that forms the brim of the Sombrero galaxy is an active star forming region. Close up images show large open clusters of young hot stars along with HII regions. The dust lane spans the entire 50,000 light year diameter of the galaxy however it is not very deep.

This image was captured from a site with a limiting magnitude of 6.48 and a magnitude per arc second of 20.86. The sky was clear and humidity was about 30%. There was small breeze at times ranging from 3-5 mph. This image was captured in one evening.

Click here for a zoomable image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Messier 106

M106,NGC 4258,Messier 106

Messier 106

Distance: 25 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 8.4
Size: 19 x 8 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral Sb
Telescope: TPO 10”
Mount: AP 900
Camera: QSI 683
Exposure: L 15×600 Bin 1, RGB 17×300 Bin 2

Messier 106 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. M106 is also classified as a Seyfert Type II galaxy which means that it emits high levels of ionized gas. This is in part due to the super massive black hole at the galaxy core of M106. M106 has a black hole that is about 10 times larger than the black hole in our Milky Way galaxy but what is unusual about this black hole is it is consuming gas at a much higher rate than ours. As the gas spirals in towards the black hole, it is superheated and emits high amounts of radiation. This takes form as microwave radiation and appears to radiate outward in all directions. M106 has four spiral arms of which two contain active star formation and two that contain superheated gas only. This is unusual and it is thought the black hole is rapidly attracting gas from the core area and ejecting it outward as a superheated gas. Star formation is thought to be 10 times less that what is occurring in our galaxy. It is thought that during this superheating and ejecting of core gas the black hole is starving the galaxy of its star formation material. It is thought that there is enough gas to last another 300 million years.

This image was captured from a site with a limiting magnitude of 6.48 and a magnitude per arc second of 20.86. The sky was clear but there was some humidity after 1am but it dried up by sunrise. This image was captured in one evening.

Messier 63 The Sunflower Galaxy

M63,NGC5055,Sunflower Galaxy

Messier 63

Distance: 37 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 8.6
Size: 10 x 6 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral SA(rs)bc
Telescope: TPO 10” 2000mm FL
Camera: QSI 683
Mount: AP 900
Exposure: L 17×600 Bin 1, RGB 18×300 Bin2

Messier 63 is a flocculent spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. A flocculent spiral galaxy is a galaxy with several spiral arms that radiate out from the bright galaxy core. These arms are tightly wound and appear fragmented in areas. Many observers say M63 resembles a flower hence the nickname The Sunflower Galaxy. M63 is a large galaxy at 130,000 light years across containing about 400 billion stars. There are many areas of star formation in the arms of M63. These appear as reddish blobs in images and many of these nebulous regions are of the star burst variety. At the core of this star factory is a massive black hole about 30 million times that of our sun.

There is a large but faint tidal stream around the perimeter of the galaxy possibly due to interaction with a dwarf galaxy around 5 billion years ago. This tidal stream is approximately 29,000 parsecs from the galaxy center at a width of approximately 3.3 parsecs. The tidal stream has been captured in earth based telescopes using visual filters and they appear as very faint, wispy clouds, elliptical in shape that follow the general shape of M63. One side of the tidal stream deviates from the elliptical shape and extends out away from the galaxy in a circular shape. The interacting galaxy has not been determined but this type of tidal stream has been observed in other galaxies and even our own Milky Way. Click here for a link that has a mouse over feature where you can see the tidal stream.
http://www.cosmotography.com/images/small_ngc5055.html

Messier 63 is a member of the M51 galaxy group. This is a small group of seven galaxies with M51A/B the most prominent members. The M51 group is a member of the much large Virgo super cluster.

This image was captured from a remote site with a limiting magnitude of 6.48 and a magnitude per arc second of 20.86. The sky was clear and humidity was about 30%. There was a light breeze at times in the 3-5mph range. This image was captured in a single sitting.

Messier 81

M81,NGC 3031,Bodes Nebula,Messier 81

Messier 81

Distance: 12 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 6.9
Size: 21 x 10 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral Sb
Telescope: RC 10” 2000mm FL
Camera: QSI 683
Mount: AP 1100
Exposure: L 15×600 Bin 1, RGB 12×300 Bin2

Messier 81 is a fairly bright galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It is a spiral galaxy with a lot of new star formation occurring everywhere from the core out to the faintest arms. The spiral arms get their bluish color from all of the young hot stars created as recently as a few million years ago. Some star formation was accelerated by interactions with neighboring galaxies M82 and NGC3077. The spiral arms also contain older stars formed from these past gravitational interactions about 600 million years ago. The arms also contain a lot of spiraling dust lanes starting from the outer arms and ending in the core area. The core area is much larger than our Milky Way core and is reddish in color due to the older age of the stars in this region. A large black hole about 70 solar masses in size is 15 times larger than the black hole of our galaxy. It is this large black hole that is creating the massive bulge at the core.

M81 is also a member of a galaxy group named the M81 Group. There are 34 galaxies in this group but one of the most prominent members is M82, the Cigar galaxy. M81 and M82 are often photographed together because they are each very interesting galaxies and can be captured with short focal length telescopes. What draws a lot of attention is M81 being a large, bright, colorful galaxy and M82 for being smaller but also bright with colorful starburst features. Additionally, they are very close to each other and as mentioned above they have interacted before with stunning results. The next prominent member is NGC 2403 which is a spiral galaxy and also quite large at 50,000 light years in diameter. The other group members are not so well known and are quite dim.

This image was captured from my house in a Bortle 6 region. The humidity was between 70-90% with a slight breeze. I managed to capture this in one night which was unusual for this time of year as the marine layer usually rolls in by 11 PM.

Messier 82 The Cigar Galaxy

M82,Cigar Nebula,Bodes Nebula,NGC3034

Messier 82 LRHaGB

Distance: 12 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 8.4
Size: 9 x 4 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Irregular Starburst
Telescope: RC 10” 2000mm FL
Camera: QSI 683
Mount: AP 1100
Exposure: L 12×600 Bin 1, RGB 20×300 Bin2, Ha 14×1800 Bin 1

Messier 82 is an irregular galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major however it is also classified as a starburst galaxy. A starburst galaxy is a galaxy that has had a gravitational interaction with another galaxy and this interaction has spurred star formation at a rapid rate. In this case it interacted with Messier 81 several hundred million years ago but now the two galaxies are about 150,000 light years apart. The area above and below the core show these starburst areas and they appear as if they are exploding out and away from the galaxy core. These red filaments extend about 20,000 light years above and below the galaxy core. Their reddish color along with several dust lanes stand out from the rest of the bright galaxy. I tried to bring this out in my image by adding Hydrogen Alpha data to the red channel.

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered close to 200 young globular clusters in this galaxy and this was probably the result of the interaction with M81 several hundred million years ago. These globular clusters are very young at 600 million years compared to the globular clusters in our galaxy which average 12 billion years. It is estimated that star formation in M82 has increased tenfold since its interaction with M81. Most of the star formation is occurring near the core of the galaxy in four clumps that are visible in visual wavelengths and they correspond with sources taken in X-ray, infrared, and radio wavelengths.

This image was captured from my home in a Bortle 6 zone using LRGB filters with some added Ha data using a 3nm Ha filter. The Ha data was blended with the red channel. The conditions were relatively good as humidity was lower than usual and the wind was calm.