M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy

M51 (NGC 5194) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs). In the image, one can see M51 interacting with the dwarf galaxy NGC 5195. The galaxy is fairly close (31 million light years away), which helps make the galaxy appear larger and brighter. Because of this, M51 is a very popular target for astrophotographers.

M51 is in a group of galaxies bound together by gravity. The group called The M51 Group (because M51 is the biggest/brightest of the group) also includes the galaxy M63 – The Sunflower Galaxy.


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Deer Lick Group and Stephan’s Quintet Group of Galaxies

A very busy section of the night sky. This image includes two different groups of galaxies: Deer Lick Group (upper-right) and Stephan’s Quintet (lower-left).

First, the big galaxy, NGC 7331, isn’t really part of the group of galaxies behind it. It just appears that way due to its location in the sky. For example, NGC 7331 is around 30 million light years away. But the other galaxies around it (NGC 7333, 7335, 7336, 7337, 7338, 7340) are around 300 million light years away. They are in the background and are not physically grouped with the big galaxy NGC 7331.


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IC 342 – The Hidden Galaxy of Camelopardalis

A relatively un-photographed galaxy, IC 342 lies very close to the Milky Way, somewhere between 7 million and 11 million light years. The galaxy IC 342 lies in a dusty area near the galactic equator. Think of the galactic equator as the middle, horizontal line through the Milky Way galaxy. This is where most of the stars and dust are located. Peering through the galactic equator results in objects often being obscured. However, IC 342 really stands out.

Our local group of galaxies includes the Milky Way, Andromeda, Large Magellanic Cloud, M33, M32 plus many more. This group moves through the universe together. IC 342 leads up the IC 342 group of galaxies. The IC 342 group is the closest group of galaxies to our local group of galaxies.


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NGC 7129 – Reflection Nebula in Cepheus

NGC 7129 is a reflection nebula located in the constellation Cepheus. Located 3,300 light years away, NGC 7129 is a young open cluster of newborn stars. Many of the stars within the cluster are less than 1 million years old, which is very young when you consider many of these stars will live to be many billions of years old. The gaseous features are the left over ingredients for star formation.

NGC 7129 is a reflection nebula. Reflection nebulas reflect light from nearby stars while emission nebulas generate light from ionized gases. Reflection nebulas are images through red, green, and blue filters while emission nebulas are best imaged with narrowband filters (Sulphur-II, Hydrogen-Alpha, Oxygen-III).


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