The Antennae Galaxies in Corvus


Copyright 2009 Hap Griffin

The "Antennae Galaxies", resembling the antennae of an ant's head, are two galaxies (NGC4038 and 4039) undergoing a collision.  Roughly 600 million years ago, these two galaxies collided with each other and began orbiting around the combined center, flinging two huge streams of stars, gas and dust into space.  The two galactic nuclei are in the process of merging to become one.  This will be the likely fate of our Milky Way galaxy when it eventually collides with the Andromeda galaxy.  Within the bodies of both galaxies can be seen emerging superclusters of massive stars, a typical outcome of galactic collisions.  The tails of stars and dust stripped from both galaxies extend out huge distances...with the larger southern tail extending some 500,000 light years from its parent galaxy.  Within these tails are both old stars from the pre-collision galaxies as well as newer stars born from the turbulence of the maelstrom.  Near the end of the southern tail is a collection of stars so large that it will likely eventually break free to form a separate galaxy of its own.

The Antennae Galaxies lie at a distance of 45 million light years.


Date/Location:    January 31, 2009     Griffin/Hunter II Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 40D (modified IR filtering) Digital SLR through 10" Newtonian w/MPCC 
Focal Ratio:   f/ 4.7
Guiding:    SBIG ST-402 through Takahashi FSQ-106N
Conditions:    Clear and cold
Weather:    28 F
Exposure: 237 minutes total (79 x 3 minutes @ ISO 800)
Filters:    Baader UV/IR block internal to camera
Processing:    Focused and captured,  RAW to TIFF conversion, flat and dark frame calibration, auto alignment,  Digital Development, resizing and JPEG conversion in ImagesPlus v3.50a.  Final tweaking in Photoshop CS3.