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M81 & M82

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Following on from last weeks post about the Pleiades, I carried on imaging for a few more hours. Feeling refreshed, I once again traversed the huge 2 inch snow drifts and finally made it to the platform. As they were in a favourable position, I decided to image M81 & M82, a superb pair of galaxies in the constellation of Ursa Major.

It was an easy slew for the telescope to these galaxies and also very easy to see through the camera, as they are both quite bright. So, I managed to image them for about 150 minutes before calling it a night. Once stacking and processing was done, I ended up with this image below, and I am very pleased with the outcome. See here for the M81 & M82 imaging details:

Anyway, on last weeks post I mentioned the Integrated Flux Nebula that this area of the sky is adorned with. Now, you may of heard of the word Flux in relation to the Back to the Future films and the Doc's Flux Capacitor. Well, of course, that does not exist in cars yet, but there is a Flux Capacitor in quantum computing. The device is a new type of electronic circulator, which can control the directional movement of microwave signals. As such, the device will be very useful for quantum computing, where researchers need to direct signals with precision. But, I digress as usual.

In very simple terms, the Integrated Flux Nebula are dust clouds. However, unlike most known nebulae, they do not reflect, scatter or shine due to the radiation of any individual star or cluster of stars, but do so from the Integrated Flux of all the stars in the Milky Way. In other words, the Flux Nebula is illuminated by the glow of our own galaxy! Compare my image above, with the NASA image below.. Image below courtesy of: NASA

This means that we are actually looking at these galaxies through the faint streamers of gas and dust that extend far above and below the galactic plane all the way to the galactic pole. This is what we call galactic cirrus or the Integrated Flux Nebula, since the dust glows dimly from the integrated light of millions of Milky Way stars. These objects are a relatively recently identified astronomical phenomenon and the term IFN was coined by Steve Mandel. Of course, this dust is extremely faint and to capture it myself would require a very dark sky site and about 20 hours or more exposure! Also, because of its faintness, once the images have been taken, they need an exceptional amount of processing, because the IFN can be mistaken for background noise. To make sure you are processing the IFN and not the noise can literally take a week of very careful work. Its not a job for the fainthearted, that's for sure!

Well, I hope you have learned a little something from this short blog. There is always something new to talk about as regards astronomy and astrophotography. Do not forget to leave a comment, good or bad, about this edition of my blog. And don't forget to like it if you have enjoyed it. Thanks. Until next time, take care and question everything!

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Kez Bloor
Kez Bloor
03 feb 2023

Excellent read, very informative

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