This is an image of the galaxies M81 and M82 I took last week (the week of May 22, 2005). M81 is the hazy oval thing below center, M82 is the diagonal streak in the upper right.
M81 is an enormous spinning disk made up of billions and billions of stars (as Carl Sagan would say), inclined about 45 degrees to the earth (and far outside of our own galaxy, the milky way). The “haze” is made up of billions of stars, to far away to be resolved individually.
M82 (upper right) is an “irregular galaxy,” which appears (on closer examination) to have been nearly ripped apart by a collision or near-collision with M81 about 50 to 100 million years ago. The pair is estimated to be about 12 million light years away (for what it's worth, that’s about 288,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles) and separated from each other by about 150,000 light years.
Built from ten 30 second exposures, 80mm F5 scope with 0.5x focal reducer.