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M81 and M82 in Ursa Major

M81 and M82 are two of the brightest galaxies in the heavens. They are easily seen in the smallest of telescopes. Indeed a wide field observation with a small refractor is sometimes the most spectacular because it shows both of them in the same field of view.

M81 (below) is a gorgeous spiral. The spiral nature of its arms is barely detectable by observation. Only in photos such as this can we see its immense arms sweeping its corner of the universe.

M81 in Ursa Major

M82 (right) has a special interest for me. It is called an irregular galaxy because it has no distinct shape. Dark matter divides the galaxy into sections which can be clearly seen in a moderate instrument.
M82 in Ursa Major
LRGB photo of M82 was taken with an ST7 CCD camera. C11 at F6.3.

The dark lanes are clearly visible in this photo.? The hot spots signal some kind of recent cataclysmic activity. We believe that it was an encounter with another galaxy (perhaps M82). Whatever happened here has destroyed any potential life in a major portion of the galaxy. This galaxy is 12 million light years away.