Descriptive information was drawn from The Sky Atlas 2000.0, 2nd Edition by R. A. Strong and R. W. Sinnott with descriptions by W. Tirion and R. W. Sinnott (2000, Sky Publishing Corp. and Cambridge University Press), and Burnham's Celestial Handbook by Robert Burnham, Jr. (1978, Dover Publications, Inc.). North is up and east to the left in all photos. Every effort has been made to display all photos at the same magnification unless otherwise stated.

M32 0h 42.7m +40° 52´ Andromeda 8.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 4
M32 NGC 221

25.0 eyepiece (50.0×)
A combination of three 20 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 photos.

Here, one can see the inner core of M31 near the top and the core of M32 just right of center near the bottom.


M31 0h 42.7m 41° 16´ Andromeda 3.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 4
NGC 224 – Andromeda Galaxy

Piggyback (3.0×)
Sixteen 60 s, f/4.9, ISO 200 plus twenty-two 30 sec, f/4.9, ISO 400 were grouped into subsets of approximately five, averaged, a flat-field removed and the contrast enhanced. Those subsets were then averaged and the contrast enhanced again.

M31 is visible to the naked eye with a dark sky and has been known for centuries but its real nature, another galaxy about 2,500,000 l.y. from Earth, was only realized last century. It is a spiral similar our own Milky Way, and, along with the Milky Way, are the largest member of the Local Group of Galaxies.

This photo just shows the inner, brightest part of the galaxy, the nucleus, in the center of the photograph with faint, short extensions to the upper-left and lower-right. In reality, the disk of M31 extends almost one-fifth of the diagonal of this photo. It has two companion galaxies, M32, which is the brightest of the small triangle of "stars" immediately the below the nucleus, and M110 which just above but not visible in this photo.


NGC 253 0h 47.6m -25° 17´ Sculptor 7.1 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 18
ngc253 NGC 253 – Sculptor Galaxy

25.0 mm eyepiece plus reducer-corrector (31.5x)
This is an average of five 30 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 photos. A flat-field has been removed and the contrast enhanced.

NGC 253 is a large bright galaxy, 2/3 the apparent size of our Moon, tilted nearly edge on. Only the inner portion of the galaxy is visible in this photo as are some of the dark dust lanes creating a mottled appearance. If the entire disk of the galaxy could be seen in this photo, it would stretch from the top-left to the bottom-right corner of this photo. Unfortunately for northern hemisphere observers, NGC 253 is located far south of the celestial equator. NGC 253 is the largest member of the Sculptor Group of galaxies and is about 11,000,000 l.y. from Earth.


NGC 2903 9h 32.2m +21° 30´ Leo 8.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 6
NGC 2903 2010-04-10


2010-04-10
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
This is a combination of one hundred, seventy-nine 10 s, ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and a flat field, then averaged the photos in groups of 10. Next, I averaged the groups, removed a residual background and strongly enhanced contrast. Finally I rotated the image to north-up, cropped and reduced it by a factor of three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

Sprial galaxies come in an almost infinite variety of shapes, but can broadly be categorized as falling into two groups based upon their appearance: sprial and barred spiral. NGC 2903 is an example of a barred spiral. Note how its brighter parts appear to form straight line extending from the 11-o'clock to the 5-o'clock positions. This is the bar with the spiral arms just beginning to be visible extending from the ends of that bar. Our own Milky way is now known to have a bar as do most spiral galaxies although bars are believed to be temporary structures.

NGC 2903 is a beautiful object within reach of small telescopes. But you'll need a larger instrument or photographs to really see its structure. This image only captures the brightest, inner-most regions of the galaxy. NGC 2903 is about 20,000,000 l.y. distant.



M81 9h 55.6m +69° 04´ Ursa Major 6.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 1, 2
M81
NGC 3031 – Bode's Nebula

25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0×)
Created by averaging thirteen 30 s, f/4.9, ISO 400 images. Then, a background fwas removed and the contrast strongly enhanced (intensity to the fourth power).

Unfortunately, the photo only captures the central bulge of this famous spiral galaxy with a very slight hint of its inner disk. M81 is 8,500,000 l.y. distant and 60,000 l.y. across. As the mosaic to the right suggests, M81's brightness and proximity to M82 make it an attractive target for small telescopes.

M81 and M82
A mosaic of the full M81 and M82 photos, which overlap, simulating the view of this pair at low power (25.0×).

M82 9h 55.8m +69° 41´ Ursa Major 8.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 1, 2
M82 2009-04-11
NGC 3034 – Cigar Nebula

2009-04-4
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
This is a combination of fifty 20 s, ISO 800 photos. I removed an average dark frame and a flat field, then stretched the contrast on each individual photo. I averaged the photos in groups of five and stretched the contrast again. I averaged the groups in sets of three, four and three, and stretched the contrast again. I then averaged the sets, created and removed another background, stretched the contrast one last time and applied an unsharp mask (5.0, 0.5, 0.0). Finally I rotated, cropped and reduced the image by 1/3.

M82 is "peculiar" galaxy undergoing a burst of star formation. The reddish color is real created by the new, young stars heating the surrounding gas into brightly shining HII regions. The splotchy, irregular shape is also real and is caused by clouds of dust in M82, which block its own light. M82 is 8,500,000 l.y. distant and 25,000 l.y. across. M82's unusual shape, made all the more apparent when contrasted with nearby M81, make it a favorite for small telescopes.


NGC 3115 10h 05.2m -7° 43´ Sextans 8.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13

NGC 3115 2010-05-04

NGC 3115 – Spindle Galaxy – Caldwell 53

2010-05-04
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (51.2×)
Created from one hundred, sixty 10 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averaged these in groups of six, removed a residual background and enhanced the contrast again. Next, I averaged the resulting images together, removed a residual background a second time, enhanced the contrast, applied 5×5 Gaussian blur, cropped the photo and reduced its size by five. larger image in a new window.

This galaxy was a pleasant surprise because the central bulge is bright and its shape is obviously unusual in a single photo or through the eyepiece. Covington ("Celestial Objects for Modern Telescopes", Cambridge Univesity Press, 2002, p. 190) cites NGC 3115 as easy object for urban skies. It resides about 21,000,000 l.y. away. I've seen NGC 3115 listed as an S0 (disk shaped like our own Milky Way but without a spiral structure) and E6 (greatly flattened elliptical), so take a look and decide for yourself.



M96 10h 46.8m +11° 49´ Leo 9.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13
M96 NGC 3368

25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5×)
This is a combination of fifteen 20 s, f/4.9, ISO 400 images. I removed a flatfield from each and enhanced its contrast. Then I combined subsets of three photos. I then literally added subset images 1+2+3, effectively creating a 60 sec exposure, and 4+5 adjusting the brightness to match the other combination. I averaged these two images together, created a new flatfield to remove the residual background and enhanced the contrast a last time.

M96 is a sprial galaxy 29,000,000 l.y. away in the Leo galaxy group. Only the nucleus of the galaxy is evident in this photo. M96 makes an interesting group with M95 and M105 but I find the others just a bit too widely separated (across the sky) to take advantage.


M105 10h 47.8m +12° 35´ Leo 9.3 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13
M105 NGC 3379

25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5×)
This is a combination of twenty-three 20 s, f/4.9, ISO 400 photos. I removed a flatfield from each and enhanced its contrast. Next I combined subsets of four photos, except the last which only involved three, and enhanced the contrast on these. I then literally added subset images 1+2+3 and 4+5+6, effectively creating 60 sec exposures. I averaged these two images together, created a new flatfield to remove the residual background and enhanced the contrast a last time. Move the cursor over the photo to see the galaxies labeled.

M105 is an E1 elliptical galaxy 22,000,000 l.y. away in the Leo galaxy group. The core of this elliptical is quite evident with a faint haze hinting at the true extent. NGC 3384 is E7 elliptical companion to M105 approximately 28,000,000 l.y. distant. NGC 3389 is a much fainter edge-on spiral in the background at 50,000,000 l.y.


M65 11h 18.9m +13° 05´ Leo 9.3 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13
M66 11h 20.2m +12° 59´ Leo 9.0 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13
NGC 3628 11h 20.3m +13° 36´ Leo 9.5 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13
M65, m66, ngc3628 NGC 3623 (M65), NGC 3627 (M66) and NGC 3628
M66 Group – Leo's Triplet

25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5×)
This is a combination of thirty-nine 20 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 photos. I removed a background and enhanced the individual images. I then combined them in subgroups of five or six. I, again, enhanced the subgroups and combined them into an image containing all the original photos. I removed a residual background and enhanced the final image again. Move the cursor over the image to see the galaxies indicated and labeled.

M66 in the lower left, M65 in the lower right and NGC 3628 near the top and left of center all fit within a 1.5° circle, which happens to be about the size of the field of view of the lowest power on my telescope. Because the night was questionable, but I could see M65 and M66 in the eyepiece, I opted to try to get all three galaxies in a single field of view. Close but no cigar. NGC 3628 is so faint that I can't call it a detection. When I further enhance the image, I get a faint smudge in the correct location but, just from this photo, it could be anything including a error in my image. I'll certainly try this again with M65 and M66 on a better night and, maybe, try for all three again too.

M65 is an Sb spiral lying 29,000,000 l.y. away in the Virgo Cluster. M66 is an Sb spiral and lies 25,000,000 l.y. away. NGC 3628 is also an Sb spiral at 32,000,000 l.y.


NGC 4244 12h 17.5m +37° 48´ Canes Venatici 10.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 6, 7

NGC 4244 2010-05-04

NGC 4244 – Silver Needle Galaxy – Caldwell 26

2010-05-04
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (51.2×)
Created from one hundred, fifty-four 20 s - ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averaged these in groups of six, removed a residual background and enhanced the contrast again. Next, I averaged the resulting images together, enhanced the contrast, applied 5×5 Gaussian blur, cropped the photo and reduced its size by five. larger image in a new window.

NGC 4244 definitely deserves a dark sky to appreciate it. This object was a bit of a challenge but, with care, I could spot it against the sky-glow in a single photo or through the eyepiece. And once spotted, I think I could just discern its elongated shape. Astronomy Magazine lists this galaxy as one of its "100 Most Spectacular Sky Wonders" saying its shape is obvious even through a small telescope at a dark site. Classified as some sort of spiral galaxy, NGC 4244 is about 12,000,000 l.y. distant.



M84 12h 25.1m +12° 53´ Virgo 9.1 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13, 14 and B1
M86 12h 26.2m +12° 57´ Virgo 8.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 13, 14 and B1
M86, M84 and others 2009-05-23 NGC 4374 (M84) and NGC 4406 (M86) 2009-05-23
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the sixty-two best 20 s, ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averaged these together in six groups of nine plus one group of eight and enhanced the contrast again. I then averaged the seven groups and enhanced the contrast. Finally I cropped the image and reduced the scale by 25%. Note that the scale of this image is 25% smaller than normal. Move the cursor over the photo to see the galaxies labeled.

M86 and M84 are the brightest members of a "clump" in the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. Move your cursor over the photo to see M86, M84 and nine other galaxies identified. Note that NGC 4435 and 4387 have foreground stars in their lines of sight and so may seem more obvious than they really are. Although both M86 and M84 appear to be featureless elliptical galaxies in this photo, scientific research has revealed that both have significant quantities of dust, M84, in particular, has a dust lane. Thus, they are considered lenticular galaxies of type S0 which have probably cannibalized a companion galaxy recently. The other galaxies are a mix of spiral and elliptical galaxies.

The Virgo Custer contains 1000 - 2000 galaxies centered on a spot about 59,000,000 l.y. away in the direction of the constellation Virgo (thus the name). Our own Milky Way's Local Group of galaxies is only a small group on the periphery of the Virgo Cluster.


3C 273 12h 29.1m +2° 03´ Virgo 12.7 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 14
3C 273

25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0×)
Created by averaging seven 8 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 images. The contrast is strongly enhanced (intensity to the fourth power).
Move the cursor over the photo to see 3C 273 and the magnitudes of some nearby stars indicated.

3C 273 is the faint blue object in the center of the photo. The magnitudes are expressed in tenths, e.g. 101 = magnitude 10.1, so one can not confuse the decimal points with objects in the photo. This information was taken from "3C 273: Catch the Brightest Quasar" by Alan M. MacRobert, Sky & Telescope, Vol. 109, No. 5, May 2005, pages 83 - 84.

Although it appears unimpressive, 3C 273 is one of the most distant objects accessible to a small telescope. The other galaxies included here are a few million to a few tens of millions of light-years distant. 3C 273 is 1,900,000,000 (that's 1.9 billion not million) light-years from us. The simple fact that we can still see it at that distance implies that this single object is emitting the total equivalent energy output by hundreds of galaxies. Quasars or "quasi-stellar" objects like 3C 273 are believed to be massive black holes gobbling their parent galaxies and, by that process, emitting the light we see.


M49 12h 29.8m +8° 00´ Virgo 8.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 13, 14, B1
M49
NGC 4472

25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0×)
Created by averaging six 30 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 images. A flat-field was removed and the contrast is strongly enhanced.

M49 in the center of the image, is an E4 elliptical galaxy in the Virgo Cluster. The foreground star just to the east (left) is 13 magnitude. This photo illustrates the abundance of galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. Two of the "stars" in the field are, given their positions, probably the nuclei of other Virgo Cluster galaxies. M49 is 41,000,000 l.y. distant and 110,000 l.y. across.


M87 12h 30.8m +12° 24´ Virgo 8.6 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 13, 14, B1
M87 NGC 4486 – Virgo A radio source

25.0 mm eyepiece; 3.0× telephoto; (150.0×)
An average of seven 30 s, f/4.9, ISO 400 photos. I removed a flat-field and enhanced the contrast. Note, as shown, this image is effectively 1.5× the magnification of the others.
Move the cursor over the photo to see several of the confirmed galaxies in the photo identified.

M87 is an E1 elliptical galaxy most famous for its radio, visual and X-ray jet powered by a large black hole at its center. The jet is not visible here but can be seen in images from larger telescopes. M87 is 41,000,000 l.y. distant and at the center of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. The Virgo Cluster is huge containing many, many members. A galaxy of galaxies, so to say. One can get a feel for how many galaxies are involved by noting that there are three other Virgo Cluster members in this photo and several more that aren't visible. The funny shaped stars are caused by poor tracking on my part while taking the original photos.


NGC 4565 12h 36.3m +25° 59´ Coma Berenices 9.6 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 7
NGC 4565 2010-04-10

NGC 4565 – Caldwell 38

2010-04-10
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
This is a combination of three hundred, fifteen 10 s, ISO 1600 photos. I removed an dark frame and a flat field, then averaged the photos in groups of 10. I averaged the groups, removed a residual background and strongly enhanced contrast. Finally I rotated, cropped and reduced the image by a factor of three. Click the photo to display a larger image in a new window.

NGC 4565 is a spectacular example of an edge-on spiral galaxy. While my urban skies dramatically diminish its beauty, I think it is still striking in the photo even though it doesn't do this object justice. The biggest surprise for me was how large NGC 4565 appears. From edge-to-edge it is half the size of the full Moon. NGC 4565 is about 49,000,000 l.y. distant.



M104 12h 40.0m -11° 37´ Virgo 8.3 Sky Atlas 2000.0
charts 13, 14
M104 2009-04-11
NGC 4594 – Sombrero Galaxy – Dark Lane Galaxy

2009-05-10
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
This is a combination of fifty-ine 20 s - ISO 800 photos. I removed an average dark frame and a flat field, then stretched the contrast on each individual photo. I averaged the photos in three groups of eight and three groups of nine, and stretched the contrast again. I averaged the groups, created and removed another background and stretched the contrast one last time. Finally I applied a Gaussian 7×7 blur, rotated, cropped and reduced the image by 1/3. The faintest stars in this image are about magnitude 16.5.

This is a nearly edge on Sb spiral galaxy with a prominent dust lane, just visible in this photo, bisecting the central bulge. The interesting appearance of M104 is evident even with a small telescope from a dark site. M104 is 41,000,00 l.y. distant and is another member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies.


M94 12h 50.9m +41° 07´ Canes Venatici 8.2 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 7
M94
NGC 4736

25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0×)
This is a combination of forty-five 20 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 photos. First I created my flatfield. I then removed the flatfield from each photo, eliminating the poorer photos at the same time, and enhanced the contrast. Next, I combined the individual photos into subgroups of five. I created another flatfield from the combination of all subgroups and removed this new flatfield from each subgroup and enhanced the result. Finally, I the combined the subgroups into the final image.

M94 has a very bright core with much fainter but, interestingly, very tightly wrapped spiral arms. This photo just captures the brighter inner part of the galaxy. The galaxy's disk should extend about half way to the nearer stars to the right and below. It is approximately 33 million l.y. distant and believed to be gravitationally associated with M51 and several smaller galaxies.


M64 12h 56.7m +21° 41´ Coma Berenices 8.5 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 7
M64 2009-04-04
NGC 4826 – Black Eye Galaxy

2009-04-04
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
This is a combination of twenty-nine 20 s, ISO 800 photos. A flatfield was removed from each and the contrast was stretched. The modified images were averaged in five groups of five and one of four, and the contrast stretched again. These were averaged and the contrast stretched on last time. Finally I rotated, cropped and reduced the image by 1/3.

This is another Sb spiral galaxy with a dark dust lane, visible in this photo, to the north-east of the central bluge, which inspired this galaxy's common moniker. This is a more challenging object for a small telescope but I have seen M64 and its dust lane from a dark site. M64 is 12,000,000 l.y. distant.


M63 13h 15.8m +42° 02´ Canes Venatici 8.6 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 7
M63 NGC 5055 – Sunflower Galaxy

2009-05-23
Prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the fifty best20 s, ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averaged these together in groups of ten and enhanced the contrast again. I then averaged the five groups and enhanced the contrast. Finally I cropped the image and reduced the scale by 33.3%.

The Sunflower Galaxy is an Sb type spiral galaxy 37,000 l.y. away. In this photo you can clearly see the bright core and some of the brighter parts of the outer arms. Just visible are some of the dark dust lanes. In better photos than this one, the combination of brighter star-forming regions with the dark dust lanes gives this galaxy a mottled appearance reminiscent of a sunflower.


M51 13h 29.9m +47° 12´ Canes Venatici 8.4 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 7
M51 NGC 5194 and NGC 5195 – Whirlpool Galaxy

2009-05-10
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
Prime focus (32.5×)
Created from the one hundred best 20 s, ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each photo, then enhanced the contrast. I averaged these together in groups of five and enhanced the contrast again. I then average the twenty groups in groups of five and enhanced the contrast. I averaged the resulting four groups of twenty-five and strongly enhanced the contrast once again. Finally I rotated the image to north-up, cropped it and reduced the scale by a factor of three.

Beyond it striking appearance, this Sc spiral galaxy is famous as the first whose sprial structure was observed (Lord Rosse in 1845). The brighter parts of the two spiral arms are visible while careful examination reveals some of the extended dust lanes within those arms. To the north, north-east is the companion galaxy, NGC 5195. These companions are definitely interacting with each other. Scientific investigations have traced a stream of stars and gas connecting the two. M51 is 37,000,000 l.y. distant. I've always thought M51 disappointing through a small telescope but blurted "wow!" the first time I saw it through a larger telescope.


M83 13h 37.0m -29° 52´ Hydra 7.6 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 21
M83 NGC 5236

25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0×)
This photo was created by averaging four 30 s, f/2.8, ISO 400 photos. A background field was removed and the contrast is strongly enhanced.

In a better picture than this, M83 is an amazing barred spiral galaxy seen nearly face on. Here, all that is visible is the very brightest part of the nucleus found at the center of the image. M83 is 8,500,000 l.y. distance and 40,000 l.y. across.


M101 14h 03.2m 54° 21´ Ursa Major 7.9 Sky Atlas 2000.0
chart 2
M101 2009-05-30 NGC 5457 – Pinwheel Galaxy

2009-05-30
White balance = 6000K (Cloudy)
Noise reduction = Off
prime focus (32.5×)
This is created from my seventy-five best 30 s, ISO 1600 photos. I removed a dark frame and flat field from each, then I enhanced the contrast and applied a 3×3 Gaussian blur to each. I averaged the modified photos in groups of seven, eight and six groups of ten, and enhanced the contrast. I average the groups, removed the residual background and enhanced. Finally, I reduced the image by a factor of three and cropped.

Burnham calls M101 "one of the finest examples of a large face-on Sc type sprial." While true, M101 can be disappointing in a small telescope because very little of its struture is evident. I know that from a dark site, careful examination can reveal a few of its brighter star forming regions, but here in town, I could only spot a faint hint of its central bulge. However, in photographs, M101's true grandeur becomes evident. My photo starts to show its structure and size but doesn't really do M101 justice.

M101 is the dominant member of the M101 Group of galaxies, and is approximately 27,000,000 l.y. distant.


Last modified: 2010-05-09