M81: Bode's Galaxy

M81 is one of the brightest galaxies in the northern sky. It can easily be seen in a pair of binoculars under a relatively dark sky. However, it is only with a sensitive detector (like a CCD camera) that the spectacular nature of this Sb spiral galaxy can be appreciated. The nearby starburst galaxy, M82, recently (in galactic terms) interacted with M81 by making a close pass in their mutual orbits. Unlike the seemingly unaffected M81 shown here- M82 is undergoing incredible starforming and energy production throughout the galaxy.

Like most spiral galaxies, the starformation in M81 is taking place in the defined arms of the galaxy. Small pink balls of light show the location of a myriad of HII regions (the emission nebulae of M81). Bluish clumps hint at the uncountable numbers of new stars in the spiral arms.

Interestingly, astronomers can learn a great deal about galaxies like this by observing them various wavelengths of light. Recently the Spitzer (formerly SIRTIF), space telescope imaged M81 in the micron wavelengths of light which highlight the dust that is heated by these energetic new stars.

M81 and M82 are around 12 million light years away.

Please click on the image below to see a larger image size. Also be certain to check out this widefield image of M81 and M82.

Click on image for larger version.


20in RC Optical Systems telescope Operating at f/8.4
Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount
SBIG STL11000 CCD camera with color filter wheel

L R G B color production was used to create this image.

Luminance = 120 minutes binned 1x1
Red = 30 minutes binned 2x2
Green = 30 minutes binned 2x2
Blue = 30 minutes binned 2x2

  • Two iterations of L-R deconvolution (sharpening) algorithm using CCDsharp were applied to the luminance image.

  • Digital Development (DDP) via Maxim/DL was also used in order to display the the very dim and very bright details of the image simultaneously.

  • Minimum credit line: Stefan Seip/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

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    Updated: 02/08/2005