The M81 galaxy group in the constellations Ursa Major and Camelopardalis contains Messier 81 (M81), the large spiral galaxy visible just to the left of center, Messier 82 (M82), the irregular galaxy to the right of M81, with the red glowing gas, also known as the “Cigar” galaxy for its shape, and many other galaxies, some of which are also visible here. NGC 3077 is the small but bright elliptical galaxy to the upper left. M82 is a prototypical “starburst” galaxy where an exceptionally high rate of star formation is taking place, and is thought to be triggered in this case by the gravitational interaction with M81. This whole galaxy menagerie, about 12 million light years distant, is seen amidst a faint vast and complex network of interstellar gas and dust known as the Integrated Flux Nebula (IFN), a portion of which can be seen in the background of this image. Other significant visible features in this busy intergalactic field include the well known Arp’s loop (described by astronomer Halton Arp) which is an arcing faint loop of gas arising from the right side of M81 in this image, the top portion of which forms almost a heart shape. This structure is thought to be the result of gravitational interaction between M81 and M82. Finally there is the dwarf galaxy satellite of M81 called Holmberg IX, an irregular galaxy which is the small bluish patch of gas and small stars visible right above M81.
Location: Orion’s Belt Remote Observatory, Mayhill NM
Telescope: Takahashi 180ED
Camera: SBIG STXL 16200
Mount: Paramount MX+
Capture details: LRGB 4,3,3,4 hours respectively (5 min subframes)
Processing: Pixinsight 1.8.8-7