M82 (Cigar Galaxy)

All Images Copyright Steve Cannistra

Please click here or on image for a higher resolution view.

Magnitude:  8.4
Size: about 9' x 4'
Distance: 12 million light years
RA: 9h 55.8m
Dec: 69 degrees 41'

M82 is the smaller companion galaxy to M81 and was discovered by Johann Bode in 1774.  It has an odd, oblong shape that is thought to have arisen from gravitational interaction with M81 millions of years ago.  High resolution color images of M82 show dramatic tendrils of red gas shooting from the center of the galaxy, which can be appreciated more readily on a magnified view of the present image.  I intend to image this galaxy in Ha light in the near future, in order to capture this outwardly expanding gas in greater detail.

Photographic Details:

Date:  December 11, 2004.
Takahashi Epsilon 250mm aperture, F/3.8 astrograph (850mm focal length) mounted on a Paramount GT1100ME mount, located in an observatory near Mahill, New Mexico.  I accomplished scope/autoguider set up and image acquisition by remote control over the internet from my home in Needham, MA.  A zip file of the raw subexposures was downloaded after completion of the session, ready for processing.  Scope time was rented through Rent-A-Scope.
Camera and autoguider: 
ST-8XE CCD camera (NABG).
Filter:  Custom Scientific Clear filter.
Exposures:  Luminance: 57' total (19 x 3'), unbinned.
Conditions:  Clear skies in New Mexico.  Cloudy in Massachusetts.
Blooms were removed using Ron Wodaski's DeBloomer plug-in for Maxim. 
All images were then dark, bias, and flat frame calibrated.  Alignment done in MaximDL.  Sigma combined using RC Sigma Reject plug-in for Maxim.  DDP and gradient correction performed in ImagesPlus (IP).  Subsequent processing including levels and curves adjustments in Photoshop CS (16 bit format).  Sharpening was accomplished with a combination of high pass filtering in PS (radius 4, overlay mode), and unsharp masking in PS (amount 100%; radius 1).   As for my image of M81, this is a work in progress- I eventually plan to make a composite color image that includes both M81 and M82, with a widefield background obtained through my Sky90/SXV-H9.
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