The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51): First light

Posted by Rod Pommier
on Friday, June 3, 2011

by Rod Pommier

Location: Pommier Observatory, Portland, OR, USA. Telescope/mount: Celestron Compustar C14 with 0.75x focal reducer (f/8). Camera: SBIG STL 11000M CCD at -25C. Filters: Baader Planetarium LRBG. Date: May 8-9, 2011. Exposures: LRGB=184:70:70:70 minutes=7hrs:04min total exposure. Guiding: Self-guided. Calibration: Bias:Dark:Flat Field. Software: MaxImDL, Photoshop.

This is my "first light" image with my new SBIG STL 11000M CCD camera. Admittedly, M51 is not well centered, but that is because I used the brightest guide star in the region for my first attempt at self-guiding. Although I can crop it to center it and zoom in on M51, I found the full frame image interesting. It shows the wide field of the large format CCD chip of the STL 11000, colorful field stars, and at least 40 faint background galaxies are visible in the image. The latter include the blue face-on barred spiral galaxy IC 4278 above the bridge and the yellow edge-on spiral galaxy IC 4277 is above the large diffuse "E" formed by the tidal spray of stars from NGC 5195. I will subsequently post a cropped closeup image of the Whirlpool.

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