31 December 2016 | M94


Image credit & copyright: Nicolas Outters | Click image to enlarge

Image Data

  • Camera: Apogee 16803
  • Optics: Rcos 12″
  • Mount: Paramount ME
  • Filters: Astrodon LRGB
  • Exposure: L 37x20min / R 4x20min / G 4x20min / B 4x20min

Located 15 million light years away, the tightly wound spiral galaxy M94 is the highlight of this award winning image. Long exposure astrophotographs such as this one reveal a wealth of complexitity from an inner circumnuclear starforming ring surrounding the core to a large outer halo structure.

In optical images, the outer part of M94 had for a long time been assumed to be a closed stellar ring system. Professional studies have been conducted as part of a pro-am collaboration involving a team of professional and amateur astronomers led by the professional astronomer David Martinez-Delgado and imaging by R. Jay GaBany, Ken Crawford and other amateurs as part of a tidal stream survey. Observations in the infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths have shown the outer halo is an outer disk with spiral arms.

M94 is an active starburst galaxy with recent star formation activity exemplified by a beautiful blue ring with ruby red emission nebulae embedded within it. Multiple swirling dust lanes are also present, which contain neutral hydrogen gas, the raw ingredient necessary for triggering a starburst. Circumnuclear rings are found in 20% of nearby spiral galaxies and their formation is likely linked to the inflow and movement of neutral gas. Star formation is triggered when this gas is compressed due to an increase in gas density.

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