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Bode's Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy

Bode's Galaxy, The Cigar Galaxy, and the IFN (Version 2) Bode's Galaxy, The Cigar Galaxy, and the IFN (Version 2) ©2016 Frederick Steiling
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Target Information
Main Target Designations M81, M82
Companion Objects Holmberg IX, Integrated Flux Nebula
RA Center 9h 55m 27.032s
DEC Center +69° 19' 38.07"
Rotation 90.782°
LHαRGB 640’/450'/225'/195'/180'
L subframes 1200" @ 1x1
Hα subframes 1800" @ 1x1
R/G/B subframes 900" @ 1x1
Total Integration 28hrs 10min
Date(s) of acquisition 06Feb2016, 08Feb2016, 09Feb2016, 10Feb2016, 11Feb2016
Locations Marathon, TX
Imager SBIG STF-8300M
Telescope/Lens Orion 8" f/3.9 Astrograph
Mount Celestron CGEM (DIY Hypertuned)
Guiding Apparatus OAG-8300
Guiding Camera QHY5L-II
Filter Wheel FW5-8300
Wide Filters Astronomik LRGB
Narrow Filters Astronomik 12nm Hα
Coma Corrector Baader MPCC Mark III
Collimator Howie Glatter 650nm laser
Focusing Moonlite CR with V2 High-res Stepper
Acquisition Sequence Generator Pro
Guiding PHD2
Processing PixInsight 1.8

In a wondrous display of what an 8" reflector telescope can do from earth, here we're bombarded by one of the richest areas of the sky. It has something for everyone!

Showing as the main features are the scientifically and observationally popular galaxies M81 (Bode's Galaxy - on the left) and M82 (The Cigar Galaxy - on the right). Not only are they a magnificent photographic pairing, but are a splendid galactic pairing as well! The proximity of the spirals has led to gravitational interaction, causing a massive uptick in star formation in the Cigar Galaxy from this added energy, earning it the designation of "starburst" galaxy... and bursting at the seams, it is! Rich hydrogen-alpha jets splay from its core as star birthing accelerates to more than 10 times the expected formation rate seen in other galaxies. It's quite the galactic petri dish!

The Cigar Galaxy was long considered an irregular galaxy (no definite shape) until recent scientific data confirmed instead that it was a true spiral galaxy, seen edge-on. Layers of these arms can be seen at a close look, evidenced by slight but definite color changes moving from its core to the edges.

Just above Bode's Galaxy is the irregular dwarf galaxy Holmberg IX (PGC28757), a small blue splotch that has more to it than meets the photographic eye. This galaxy is a mere baby, currently believed to have formed within the last 200 million years, earning it the designation as one of the youngest nearby galaxies. There's growth all over this image!

Lastly, across the entire image is one of the more difficult gas structures to photograph -- the Integrated Flux Nebula. The IFN is a large area of gas present in higher galactic latitudes. However, rather than a product of nearby stars (as is the case for reflection and emission nebulae), the IFN is lit by the flux of all the stars in the Milky Way, making it a dim vestige that will quietly drop in on deep images of the region. The faint blue and red folds seen here are a quick reminder that in order to view the galaxies of the outer universe, we need to peer through our own.

This image was a huge effort, and a benefactor of the dark skies (Bortle 2) during an imaging trip to Marathon, TX. Taken over 5 nights with over 30 hours of exposure taken (prior to frame rejection), it's a testament to how much is out there, what we can see from earth, and exactly why I got into this hobby!

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