The Whale and Hockey Stick galaxies photobombed by Comet Leonard, by Shelley Jackson | SkyNews
The Whale and Hockey Stick galaxies photobombed by Comet Leonard, by Shelley Jackson

Galaxies photobombed by Comet Leonard, by Shelley Jackson

Captured over the span of over a month, Shelley Jackson captured a breathtaking image of three neighbouring galaxies and a comet passing by chance

NGC 4631, NGC 4627 and NGC 4656 are three gravitationally interacting galaxies that can be found about 25 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici.

Shelley Jackson’s beautiful capture of the galaxies — photobombed by Comet Leonard — wins the Photo of the Week on December 3, 2021. 

The Whale and Hockey Stick galaxies photobombed by Comet Leonard, by Shelley Jackson | SkyNews
The Whale and Hockey Stick galaxies photobombed by Comet Leonard, by Shelley Jackson

NGC 4631 is known as the “Whale Galaxy” due to its shape being similar to that of a whale. The Whale Galaxy can be seen towards the centre of Jackson’s image, just slightly off to the right.

NGC 4627 is located slightly above the Whale, and is the small cluster of stars with a faint glow surrounding it. Known as the Pup Galaxy, it is a small elliptical galaxy that gets its name for being the smaller companion ‘pup’ to the Whale Galaxy.

Just underneath and slightly to the right of the Whale Galaxy is the comet  C/2021 A1 (Leonard), which Jackson captured in the early hours of November 24, 2021. 

Shooting from her Bortle 6/7 backyard in Sarnia, Ontario,Jackson switched mounts on her Sky-Watcher AZ EQ5 pro and adjusted the equipment just in time for the comet’s apparition at 3 a.m., giving her the perfect window to capture the icy traveller before clouds blocked the view 15 minutes later.

NGC 4656 is located towards the centre left of the image, and is known as the “Hockey Stick Galaxy.” NGC 4656 gets its nickname from its warped shape which shares a resemblance to a hockey stick. It is thought that this galaxy gets its unique shape due to an interaction between the Hockey Stick, Whale and Pup galaxies.

Galactic interactions have the potential to change the shape of celestial objects, which can include shifting and warping the gas of constituents, stars, and dust into the unique shapes such as the Hockey Stick Galaxy shows us.

Honourable mention

IC 63 by Dan Kusz | SkyNews
IC 63 by Dan Kusz

This week’s honourable mention goes to Dan Kusz, who brings us an image of IC 63 taken on September 11, 2021. Known as “the Ghost of Cassiopeia,” it is found 550 light-years away within the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.

The image gets its red-hue due to hydrogen reacting with ultraviolet radiation. The reaction causes electrons within IC 63 to gain energy, which is then released as Hydrogen-alpha radiation in a visible red colour.

Kusz brings us this image from Vernon, British Columbia. The image was taken on a ZWO ASI2600MM Pro with a Sky-Watcher Esprit 120 lens with a focal length of 647mm. The exposure time for the image was 6.5 hours.

Every week, SkyNews publishes the best image from among those sent in by readers from all across Canada. Whether you’re an expert or a beginner at night sky photography, we’re looking for your pictures! Enter today for your chance to win a Photo of the Week title and one of our annual prizes!

Prizes for the 2021-22 SkyNews Photo of the Week contest are sponsored by Sky-Watcher, Celestron, iOptron, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and SkyNews. Find out more about the amazing telescopes, prize packages and gift vouchers awarded to the best photos this year.

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