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M31 - Andromeda galaxy

 

This spiral galaxy probably looks similar to our own Milky Way if it were possible to see that from 2.5 million light years away. Bands of interstellar dust are quite clearly visible. Two small companion galaxies (of dwarf elliptical type) can also be seen in this photo: M32 is the more compact one on the upper left (it looks like a bright star); M110 is the more obviously galaxy-like one on the lower right.

 

 Camera only, from dark site

Image of galaxies M31, M32 & M110

Canon EOS5DMkII 100-400mm lens @ 400mm 32 x 30s f/5.6 ISO3200 2010-12-11 18:09:33-18:27:38 UT
From Rookhope 54.8N 2.1W 330m asl. Rural, almost no light pollution (3 Bortles)

The camera was on an HEQ5 mount, driven but not guided.

 Through telescope, from dark site

Image of core of galaxy M31

Canon EOS5DMkII 254mm Newtonian @ 1200mm 65 x 30s f/4.8 ISO6400 2010-12-11 19:58:54-20:37:10 UT
From Rookhope 54.8N 2.1W 330m asl. Rural, almost no light pollution (3 Bortles)

 Through telescope but from light-polluted site

The core of the galaxy. It is too large to fit completely into the field of view of the telescope. The telescope was on an HEQ5 mount, driven but not guided.

Image of galaxies M31, M32 & M110

Canon EOS5DMkII 254mm Newtonian @ 1200mm 52 x 10s f/4.8 ISO6400 2009-9-26 21:49:17-22:05:39 UT
From Whitley Bay 55.1N 1.5W 10m asl. Suburban, significant light pollution (6.5 Bortles)

   

 2012 Sep 11

There was an unusually clear sky in light-polluted Whitley Bay. I tried some experiments on a fixed tripod for the purpose of demonstrating what is possible with minimal equipment. Exposures must be short to avoid trails but if enough exposures are taken at high sensitivity (ISO 6400) it is possible to use software to cut through some of the light pollution.

 Perseus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda & Pegasus

First a reminder that single frames look awful. Do not be put off by that. Take lots of them and use software, as I will show.

Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO6400 8s 24-105mm lens at 24mm f/4.5
Fixed tripod 2012 Sep 11 22:40:50 UT
From Whitley Bay 55.1N 1.5W 10m asl. Suburban, significant light pollution (6.5 Bortles)

148 of those were stacked in GRIP, followed by some background correction and tone curves to make this:

Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO6400 148x8s 24-105mm lens at 24mm f/4.5
Fixed tripod 2012 Sep 11 22:40:50-23:12:54 UT
From Whitley Bay 55.1N 1.5W 10m asl. Suburban, significant light pollution (6.5 Bortles)

 How to find M31

I used an annotated version of the previous picture in a U3A talk, to show how to find M31:

The images above have been scaled down from an initial 3609 pixels wide to 600 pixels. Taking a crop at full size around M31 looks like this:

Not bad for a fixed tripod in light-polluted suburbia?

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