The lack of photon-gathering opportunities has left me somewhat desperate to see stars. So I went back to my photo archive to dig for some unprocessed images and found some of M101 (the pinwheel galaxy).
M101 was discovered by Pierre Mechain on March 27, 1781. Based on measurements made with the Hubble Space Telescope using Cepheid variables, it is estimated that M101 is 27 million light-years away. M101 is about 170,000 light-years across, making it quite a bit larger than the our own Milky-Way galaxy (about 100,000 ly). M101 is the brightest of a group of at least 9 galaxies, called the M101 Group.
A close look at the attached image does show another galaxy in addition to M101. In the lower-right of the image is MCG+09-23-025. I’m not sure if this is part of the M101 group or not (probably not, as it took a fair bit of work to identify that little smudge). The catalogs I’ve looked indicates this is a 13.8 to 15th magnitude galaxy (as compared to M101, which is 7.9 to 8.5 magnitude).
The image you see was taken at Peach Mountain on July 09/10, 2010 using my StarMaster 14.5 inch scope. I was using an unmodified Canon 30D DSLR camera at the prime-focus of the telescope. Although I took over 50 frames, I was able to use only 7 due to tracking and some wind issues. As a result, the final image is not as bright and detailed as I had hoped (Hopefully I get more data later). Each frame was 75 seconds long. The images were stacked using DeepSkyStacker; final processing was done in Photoshop.
I hope you enjoy the image anyway, and are looking forward to the spring as much as I am.
Dreaming of clear skies and warmer nights,