Skies By Africa

Images of the Heavens By Eric Africa

M82, the Cigar Galaxy with Supernova SN 2014J

M82 with Supernova SN 2014J
Hover cursor over image to point out supernova. Click on image for 75%-sized image
M82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy from its distinct shape, forms the smaller half of the "Galactic Waltz" image I shot back in 2011. According to Wikipedia, M82 is the archetypal "starburst galaxy", which is a galaxy undergoing a higher-than-normal rate of star formation, most likely triggered from interactions if not an actual collision with M82 several million years ago.

M82 was originally thought to be an irregular galaxy, but the discovery of spiral arms in near-infrared images taken in 2005 now identify it as an edge-on spiral galaxy. The red filaments emanating from the galaxy, which are believed to be clouds of ionized hydrogen gas possibly expelled by supernova explosions in the past.

M82 can easily be seen with a small telescope. Even from our light-polluted backyard in West Chester, Ohio, I have  not only seen M82 visually, I can begin to see some granular textures in the galaxy's faint, elongated smudge through an 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Views of this through a bigger telescope at a dark sky are likely to be spectacular! The relative ease of this galaxy to see is not only from its relative closeness to us (12 million light years), it is also because M82 is about five times brighter than our own Milky Way galaxy!

This image is not as deep nor as thoroughly-processed as I would like it, as this is more of a "News Flash!" image. A supernova was detected in this galaxy January 21, 2014. Now designated SN 2014J, this supernova is (as of this writing - January 26) still developing and could brighten enough in the next week or two to be visible to small backyard telescopes and big binoculars. This supernova is stirring excitement among astronomers both amateur and professional, as this is the closest supernova visible since 1993! Hopefully I can update this image over the next few weeks. If not, at least I got it!
Object: M82
Constellation: Ursa Major
When Visible: January - July
Distance: 12 Million Light-years
Date taken: January 25, 2014
Location: Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico
Exposure Details:
L: 9 x 10 Minutes, binned 1x1
R: 6 x 10 minutes, binned 1x1
G: 6 x 10 minutes, binned 1x1
B: 6 x 10 minutes, binned 1x1
4.5 hours total exposure
Equipment Used: 12.5" PlaneWave CDK on a Software Bisque Paramount ME mount. SBIG STL-6303 camera with 5-position filter wheel and Astrodon LRGB filters
Acquisition Software : MaximDL 5, CCDAutopilot 5
Processing Software: MaximDL, Adobe Photoshop CS5 Gradient Xterminator, Carboni Tools, IrFanView