Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Beautiful Galaxy M101 in wide field

M101 is becoming one of my favourite galaxies - not least because the post I did about it when a Supernova was discovered in it last August is the 3rd most read here.

So I was pleased to notice on the Twitter #bbcstargazing stream a link to a beautiful wide field shot of the galaxy.

And here's the image in its full glory from the Flickr stream:
M101 Widefield - 190312
M101 Widefield by Mike Hyde on Flickr.

So why do I like this image so much.... well I was just talking about it with my office mate Chris and he put it well. You can see the galaxy, and you can tell it's a galaxy made of billions of stars and unimaginably immense on human scales, but you can also get a sense of how tiny this galaxy is compared to the Universe, and even how tiny it appears on the sky from Earth. Check out the other galaxies in the image - an edge on disc towards the bottom, and a fuzzy patch at the upper right. 

And Chris (who works on supernova projects) tells me the supernova in it is still quite bright. It's currently about 16th magnitude - even months after it went it. Now that's not quite visible in this image, but still giving useful information via even quite small professional telescopes. There's already been several papers based on it discussing distance measurements to M101 and the scale of the Universe. 

Great image. :)

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