XF9 - Michael Möhler

Galaxy season is here

Galaxy season is here and it can be quite challenging with a wide field setup. Let’s see what targets are in reach :)

Galaxy season

Spring is galaxy season. The milky way is low on the horizon giving a clear few on those small Galaxies which would otherwise drown in the sea of stars.

While a wide field setup like my RedCat 51 excels at imaging large nebula, it is less than ideal for imaging galaxies. These are quite small and refractors with a small focal length usually don’t have the reach to image those. So we need to look at the larger ones and what other targets are available for us.

Just a quick reminder: The images I took are taken with a RedCat 51 (250mm focal length) and a Sony IMX571 Sensor based camera (APS-C).

M81 - Bode’s Galaxy

An image showing to galaxies. A elongated one on the left - the cigar galaxy and a round one on the right - Bodes Galaxy.

M81 or better known as Bode’s Galaxy was my entry to galaxy season. It started as a filler project, after my main target got to low to photograph. It only has a handful of hours on it but I’m quite impressed of what I could see. On the right side is M81, the funny looking thing on the left is M82, the Cigar Galaxy. This image is cropped in but there is still enough detail to look around.

M101 - Pinwheel Galaxy

An image of M101, a beautiful spiral galaxy. One can clearly see it's spiral arms.

M101 or the Pinwheel Galaxy isn’t a target I was planing on shooting too - but I’m really glad I did. I was having a brief discussion with Mallory on barlow lenses for astrophotography. She was using one, but didn’t get quite the results she was looking for. So in short a 3x Barlow triples your focal length, so your magnification is 3 times higher. That in itself is quite nice, but it also multiplies your required integration time by 3². So the ~22 hours she did spend on M101 with the barlow lens on, could have been ~3 hours without one. I suggested to give it a try without a barlow lens. Since I got some unexpected clear skies I wanted to give it a try to.

The image above is an uncropped version of M101 with my RedCat 51 with 250mm focal length. What I really love about this image is that there are many details visible in M101 itself but also in all the surrounding galaxies too. If you can divert your vision from M101 itself you can spot many galaxies around it, just look for fuzzy patches and needle shaped objects. I can at least spot 10 of those without looking to closely.

NGC5474 NGC5422 A galaxy cluster

Markarian’s chain

Another option to shoot are galaxy clusters instead of single targets. A famous example is Markarian’s chain . While I haven’t shot it myself so far I’m looking forward too. So here is a screenshot from stellarium, the redbox is marking my field of view:

A screenshot showing a lot of galaxies with a red box surrounding them which will be the frame.

As you can see there are many galaxies in this frame (the red circles) which makes for a very interesting framing, Unfortunately this target is quite low for me and in a heavy light polluted area. To shoot it I would need to get away from the city - maybe next year :)

Leo triplet

A screenshot showing 3 galaxies with a red box surrounding them which will be the frame.

This is another target I haven’t shot yet but should be suitable to image. It’s the rather famous leo triplet of M65, M66 and NGC 3628 (the Hamburger Galaxy). While it should appear quite small in the frame (like Bode’s galaxy above) it should provide enough details for a cropped image.

Conclusion

While a wide field setup isn’t the best thing to have during galaxy season there is no reason you shouldn’t use it. You can still get a lot of details in the larger galaxies and in addition you get a lot of galaxies to discover around it. This is especially true for M101 where I ha a blast looking around the image to discover so many galaxies I haven’t seen before. I’m really looking forward to visit some of them once I have a more suitable telescope. Till then I’ll have a blast looking a the greater picture as to speak :)