February 2020 - Picture of the Month
M81, M82 and the IFN in the Constellation of Ursa Major
It's time for another galaxy or two, but I have to be careful not to clash with Owen's Galaxy of the Month. My normal tactic is to choose something bright. So with Ursa Major nearly overhead I started searching for M81 and M82. This pair are showpieces for both visual observers and imagers. What I found has some added interest in the form of nebulosity, always a favourite of mine.
Terry's beautiful image reveals the glow of the integrated flux nebula (IFN): the light of the stars in our own galaxy reflected from its interstellar dust and gas. It's faint and required 11.5 hours of integrated imaging time to capture using a 130mm telescope and CMOS camera. The IFN provides an atmospheric – can I use that word to describe interstellar space? – foreground to these two interacting galaxies which show terrific detail.
There's no shortage of galaxies in this field. In addition for the feature pair there's NGC 3077 and NGC 2976 to the upper right and upper left respectively, and a few UGCs scattered around too. It's well worth some closer examination of this image and area of the sky.
James Whinfrey - Website Administrator.