M66/M65/NGC3628 - Leo Triple

April 2021

Imaging: ST120 achro, Canon 1000D 400ISO, Baader Neodymium
Subs: 179x180s (9h), bias, darks, and flats
Processing: PixInsight

(Additional notes below)



I started imaging this at the end of March. Excitement then disappointment through this one. I received my TS Optics 80mm scope and immediately switched to it. Unfortunately, I soon realized that it had pinched optics with star flaring on the bright stars. After consultations on CN and with the vendor, I tried to fix the problem by loosening the center screws. After two passes at this, the flaring was gone but something still did not look right. I decided to do a visual star test and could then immediately see the problem: a small part of the star is "cut off" in some way when slightly out of focus. This is beyond my ability to debug/fix so now the scope is back on its way to Germany for evaluation/repair. So frustrating!

I am now back on my Orion ST120 achro for this target. The Leo triple is three galaxies about 35M ly from us. The one in lower right is Messier 66 which is a spiral galaxy about 100K ly in width, about the same size as our Milky Way. The one in the upper right is Messier 65, another spiral galaxy about 90K ly in width. The last galaxy NGC 3628, also known as the Hamburger Galaxy, is an unbarred spiral galaxy. It has a 100K ly long tidal tail.

Now, this galaxy triple may just look like fuzzy marks on a photo, but let me nerd out. These galaxies are 35 million ly away from us: in miles, that is about 200000000000000000000 miles away! The light photons that hit my camera sensor to make this image left those galaxies 35 million years ago, halfway since the dinosaurs went extinct, and more than 25 million years before we humans split from the great apes. This is the furtherest thing I have ever imaged, and it amazes me that we have built technology that allows me to take a picture of this from my Edison backyard.