With brilliant dust trails and incredible detail, Stuart Heggie’s image of galaxies Messier 81 and Messier 82 — and oodles of other objects — wins Photo of the Week on April 30, 2021.
In 1774, Johann Elert Bode discovered both of the galaxies, located about 12 million light-years away from Earth. The small fuzzy galaxy top left is NGC 3077, which was discovered by William Herschel on November 8, 1801.
“The pronounced grand-design spiral galaxy M81 forms a most conspicuous physical pair with its neighbour, M82, and is the brightest and probably dominant galaxy of a nearby group called M81 group,” Heggie wrote.
“A few tens of million years ago, which is semi-recently on the cosmic time scale, a close encounter occurred between the galaxies M81 and M82. During this event, larger and more massive M81 has dramatically deformed M82 by gravitational interaction. The encounter has also left traces in the spiral pattern of the brighter and larger galaxy M81, first making it overall more pronounced, and second in the form of the dark linear feature in the lower left of the nuclear region. The galaxies are still close together, their centres separated by a linear distance of only about 150,000 light years.”
Using a Moravian G4 and a AP155EDF (f/7.1), Heggie collected more than 16 hours of imaging data from Lucknow, Ontario to build the image.
Our runner up this week sticks to the galactic theme. Abdur Anwar receives our honourable mention for this gorgeous image of Messier 51 and its companion galaxy.
Using a ZWO ASI1600MM (light and Hydrogen-alpha frames), a Fuji XT2 mirrorless camera (colour data) and an eight-inch Orion reflector telescope (f/3.9) on a EQ6R mount, Anwar captured 9.4 hours of data from Edmonton, Alberta, on April 15, 2021.
“It was the first galaxy I ever saw through a telescope and ever since that time, I have been attempting to image it,” Anwar wrote. “Everything lined up for me recently as the night was perfectly clear, there was no wind, and the transparency was excellent.”
Prizes for the 2020-21 SkyNews Photo of the Week contest are sponsored by Sky-Watcher, Celestron, iOptron and The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Click here for more details on the prize packages that will be awarded to the best photos this year.