"A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust."
What does that really mean? A galaxy is a collection of stars and gas that are attracted to each other to form a dense cluster of matter. Typically the matter rotates around a center (usually a black hole) and takes on many forms. From the classic graceful spirals to fuzzy ellipticals to the often bizarre irregulars. Galaxies are as varied as people, large and small, tall and skinny, short and fat, they are all interesting.
Observations of our nearest neighbor, Andromeda, have been made since the 10th century. Though it was first hypothesized to be a separate entity as early as 1750 it wasn't proven to be separate galaxy until the early 20th century. Since then it has been estimate that the universe has more that 100 billion galaxies. That is 100,000,000,000. Each galaxy can contain billions of stars.
Here is my collection of galaxies. Photographing galaxies is technically a challenge. Most of them appear small from our planet so the telescope and associated hardware needs to be running perfectly. Even if my equipment is running well the sky above me must cooperate and be as still as possible.
Lets start with the closest!
The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way. As it is visible as a faint smudge on a moonless night, it is one of the farthest objects visible to the naked eye, and can be seen even from urban areas with binoculars. It is named after the princess Andromeda in Greek mythology. Andromeda is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which consists of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 30 other smaller galaxies. Observations revealed that M31 contains one trillion (1012) stars, greatly exceeding the number of stars in our own galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is notable for being one of the brightest Messier objects, making it easily visible to the naked eye. Although it appears more than six times as wide as the full moon when photographed through a larger telescope, only the brighter central region is visible with the naked eye.
The Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as Messier 51a, M51a, or NGC 5194) is an interacting grand-design spiral galaxy located at a distance ofapproximately 23 million light-years in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is one of the most famous spiral galaxies in the sky. The galaxy and its companion (NGC 5195) are easily observed by amateur astronomers, and the two galaxies may even be seen with binoculars. The Whirlpool Galaxy is also a popular target for professional astronomers, who study it to further understanding of galaxy structure (particularly structure associated with the spiral arms) and galaxy interactions.
The Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 101 or NGC 5457) is a face-on spiral galaxy distanced 25 million light-years (eight megaparsecs) away in the constellation Ursa Major, first discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 27, 1781, and communicated to Charles Messier who verified its position for inclusion in the Messier Catalogue as one of its final entries.
M101 is a relatively large galaxy compared to the Milky Way. With a diameter of 170,000 light-years it is nearly twice the size of the Milky Way. It has a disk mass on the order of 100 billion solar masses, along with a small bulge of about 3 billion solar masses.
The two images were taken with two different setups from my backyard. The one on the right is the "firstlight" with the new setup.
Left Image Specifics:
Right Image Specifics:
The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy at approximately 3 million light years (ly) distance in the constellation Triangulum. It is cataloged as Messier 33 or NGC 598, and is sometimes informally referred to as the Pinwheel Galaxy, a moniker it shares with Messier 101. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy and about 30 other smaller galaxies. It is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.
The Black Eye Galaxy (also called Sleeping Beauty Galaxy; designated Messier 64, M64, or NGC 4826) was discovered by Edward Pigott in March 1779, and independently by Johann Elert Bode in April of the same year, as well as by Charles Messier in 1780. It has a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus, giving rise to its nicknames of the "Black Eye" or "Evil Eye" galaxy. M64 is well known among amateur astronomers because of its appearance in small telescopes. A collision of two galaxies has left a merged star system with an unusual appearance as well as bizarre internal motions. Astronomers believe that the oppositely rotating gas arose when M64 absorbed a satellite galaxy that collided with it, perhaps more than one billion years ago. Active formation of new stars is occurring in the shear region where the oppositely rotating gases collide, are compressed, and contract. Particularly noticeable in the image are hot, blue young stars that have just formed, along with pink clouds of glowing hydrogen gas that fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet light from newly formed stars. It is approximately 17 million light years from earth. (from Wikipedia) This is a very difficult object to capture. It was taken at the highest focal ratio my scope is capable of and requires excellent tracking and good skies. Taken with: 9.25 SCT at f/10 Atlas mount QHY8 Guided with: ST80/DSI Software: Nebulosity PHD DeepSkyStacker Photoshop
The Whale Galaxy (the one at the top) storted wedge shape gives it the appearance of a herring or whale. If you closely you will see it is actually two galaxies. One is the long thin one and the other is just above it and looks like a fuzzy star. The galaxy at the bottom is also actually two galaxies. The are in the process of merging in to a single and in the process creating a trail of stars and gas.
Wide field of M81 and M82 galaxies M81 (larger galaxy on the right) was first discovered in first discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774. Consequently, the galaxy is sometimes referred to as "Bode's Galaxy". Located about 11.7 million light years from earth in the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper). It is the main galaxy in the "M81Galaxy Group" of galaxies that contains about 34 galaxies and does not include our own Milky Way. The smaller M82 galaxy in the upper left is interacting with M81 to a large extent. You can see hints of red spikes in the middle of the image which is a result of new star formation. M82 is about the same distance away from us as M81 and the two are separated by 130 light years. How many galaxies can you find in this image? How about 15?
Technical Data: Megrez90 operated a f/5.5 ST80 guide scope
Nebulosity capture PHD guide Atlas mount
Processed with Deepsky stacker and Photoshop CS2
Messier 81 (also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. M81 is one of the most striking examples of a grand design spiral galaxy, with near perfect arms spiraling into the very center. Because of its proximity to Earth, its large size, and its active galactic nucleus (which harbors a 70 million M☉  supermassive black hole) Messier 81 is a popular galaxy to study in professional astronomy research. The galaxy's large size and relatively low apparent magnitude (lower magnitude implies higher brightness) also make it a popular target for amateur astronomy observations.
Messier 81 was first discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774. Consequently, the galaxy is sometimes referred to as "Bode's Galaxy". In 1779, Pierre Méchain and Charles Messier reidentified Bode's object, which was subsequently listed in the Messier Catalogue.