University Lowbrow Astronomers

Deep Sky Astronomy Pictures [M31]

This page contains images produced by members of the University Lowbrow Astronomers.

by David Tucker


This is an image of M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) taken from the shores of lake Walloon in northern Michigan in August 2005. More specifically, from the back porch of cabin 2 south:

Some information about the object: M31 is an unimaginably huge disk of stars, dust and gas about 3,000,000 light years distant and 250,000 light years in diameter (a light year is about 6 trillion miles, if you were wondering). Its total mass is about a trillion times the mass of our entire solar system. The object is relatively very bright in the center (which can be seen with the naked eye on a dark night) where the density of stars is about 1 million per cubic light year, but the disk itself is much dimmer and more rarified, and the full extents are not even visible in this image (1/2 hour total exposure time). If we could see the full extents with the naked eye, the galaxy would appear to be about 6 times larger then the full moon!

A few other notes: M31 is one of the few objects in the universe moving toward us, rather then away, specifically at a rate of about 200 Miles per second (!) and is expected to eventually collide with (or nearly miss) our own galaxy. The bright stars in the image are almost all much closer foreground stars, but the fuzzy thing along the top edge is M31 satellite galaxy M32.

Technical notes:

Image built from 60 30 second images, AtIk 2HS camera focused through Vixen 80mm short tube F5 w/ 2X focal reducer. Image processed in K3CCD and paintshop. A -IR filter may have helped reduce bloating of bright stars, but this was the best I could do after 2 hours of working toward getting my name into the “Hall of Foam” at the Noggin Room bar in Petosky.

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