Although I have captured this one a couple of times I found myself drawn to try something a bit different. There was a crescent of a moon in the sky and the evening started out rather more breezy than I would like so I thought I should try a brighter target in the dark portion of the sky I tend to gravitate toward. I reduced the exposure time to 200 seconds and this image is a stack of 43 frames. That is the most frames I have used so far with my simple DSLR camera prime setup still on the 6″ astrograph. The results are indeed better than my March 7th 2018 image.

Whirlpool Galaxy

Near New Moon on March 13th I was out again taking advantage of this rare string of clear nights. I made my longest run of 6 minute subs totaling nearly four hours of integration.  A low aparent brightness target, NGC 4395 proved challenging to process even with the longer exposures and lots of them. This is a minimal crop so it presents my usual full field indicating a good sized object just rather dim in a dark patch of sky.


NGC 4395



At about 9,800,000 light-years’ distance, the Maffei 1 Galaxy (named after Paolo Maffei) is part of the nearest group of galaxies just outside of our “Local Group”. It  is a massive elliptical galaxy (and may be the closest) in the constellation Cassiopeia but appears in our sky heavily obscured by the Milky Way’s stars and dust (known as the Zone of Avoidance because of the difficulty seeing what lies beyond). If it were not obscured, it would be one of the largest (about 3/4 the size of the full moon), brightest, and best-known galaxies in the sky.

To me it seems ghostly, glowing through the foreground stars which hints to an even more massive real size. Two hours and 48 minutes of good frames brought this dim galaxy to life on a calm warm September night with good visibility after the crescent moon set. The image presented here is near full frame for my current 600mm fl setup with a crop sensor stock DSLR.

Maffei 1

Processed a bit more:

Maffei 1 more processed

Last year around this time I first captured this area centered between the Deer Lick Group on the left and the Stephan’s Quintet on the right. I came back to this location on a warm evening waiting for the first quarter moon to set and was able to stack 2 hours and 42 minutes of 360 second subs. The dominate galaxy is 40 to 50 million light years distant while the lesser  ones are perhaps ten times as far away.

Cropped image:

Full image captured:

A nice small group of galaxies each showing a very different type from April 20th.

I found these on Stellarium and know them just by the catalog numbers but I really like this group. A small scale target for my setup but a fine subject for a return visit when I have better gear perhaps.

       I had several dark nights with the telescope last month but only just got around to updating my astrophotography blog site. After submitting the image to the online service I identified them as NGC5981, NGC5982 and NGC5985 top to bottom also known as the Draco Trio as they are located in the belly of the dragon constellation. The close grouping of an edge on, an elliptical and a spiral galaxy makes a nice portrait.


From April 17th.
The Splinter Galaxy. Conditions were about as good as it gets and this faint object (Magnitude: 11.1) is shown as the result of nearly three hours of exposures each six minutes long. Note the two adorable little galaxies in the lower right corner. Little of course is somewhat relative. For all I know they might be bigger than our galaxy!
I watched dozens of Starlink satellites (at least I THINK they were satellites) march in formation across the sky and by some chance they missed running over my target. Not too happy to think these will be the new normal in the early night sky.
From the internets: “NGC 5907 is a spiral galaxy located approximately 50 million light years from Earth. It has an anomalously low metallicity and few detectable giant stars, being apparently composed almost entirely of dwarf stars. It is a member of the NGC 5866 Group.”

From April 16th. The Covid-19 sort of took over life there for a while so just now getting caught up on some recent images.
The “Blowdryer Galaxy” also known as M100 was captured two nights ago as the main attraction but a dozen other galaxies can be found without much trouble in the larger frame which is essentially the full usable frame of my current setup.
Borrowed from Jim Gardepe is the following description:
“The galaxy Messier 100, a.k.a. the “Blowdryer Galaxy” (who thinks up these names?) is one of the largest and brightest members of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. It is located in the constellation Coma Berenices. Messier 100 is an example of a “grand design” intermediate spiral galaxy. It is approximately 55 million light-years] distant from Earth and has a diameter of 107,000 light years.
Messier 100 is considered a starburst galaxy, with the strongest star formation activity concentrated in its center – where intense star formation has been underway for about 500 million years.”

Taken a week ago on the 21st on a rather nice dark night is this grouping of galaxies appearing in the constellation Virgo. They form a smooth curve in the sky and seven of them seem to be moving together towards our galaxy. 

We had some light wind as evidenced while stacking the subs which varied in quality over a wide range . The slightest vibration will upset the tracking a bit and result in loss of clarity on a given single image. I tossed one that had a big satellite trail and around six of the lowest ranking ones. I hate loosing subs but some sacrifice is needed to generate the best results! 

Markarian's Chain