Ultra-Deep Astrophoto: 75 Hours of the Antenna Galaxies

You might think the image above of the famous Antenna Galaxies was taken by a large ground-based or even a space telescope. Think again. Amateur astronomer Rolf Wahl Olsen from New Zealand compiled a total of 75 hours of observing time to create this ultra-deep view.

“To obtain a unique deep view of the faint tidal streams and numerous distant background galaxies I gathered 75 hours on this target during 38 nights from January to June 2014,” Rolf said via email. “At times it was rather frustrating because clouds kept interrupting my sessions.”

But he persisted, and the results are stunning.

He used his new 12.5″ f/4 Serrurier Truss Newtonian telescope, which he said gathers approximately 156% the amount of light over his old 10″ f/5 telescope.

Rolf even has put together comparison shots from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope of the same field of view:

Comparison images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope, compared with the 75-hour ultra-deep image  by Rolf Wahl Olsen. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.
Comparison images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope, compared with the 75-hour ultra-deep image by Rolf Wahl Olsen. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

And if you look even closer you can see an incredible field of distant background galaxies. “Apart from the Antennae itself, what I like most about this scene is the incredible number of distant background galaxies,” Rolf told Universe Today. “This area in Corvus seems very rich indeed. The full resolution image is worth having a look at just to see all these faint galaxies littering the background. There are many beautiful interacting pairs and groups which would be fantastic targets in themselves if they were only closer.”

Here’s a collage of some of the background galaxies that Rolf compiled:

A gallery of distant background galaxies in the same field of view as the Antenna Galaxies. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.
A gallery of distant background galaxies in the same field of view as the Antenna Galaxies. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

See more of Rolf’s work at his website or on G+. You may remember that Rolf took the first amateur image of another solar system, at Beta Pictorus.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Astrophoto: Incredible Deep View of Globular Clusters Swarming the Sombrero Galaxy

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You may recall in 2011 we featured an astrophoto by Rolf Wahl Olsen from New Zealand, who took the first amateur image of another solar system, Beta Pictoris. Olsen wrote to tell us he now has a new and better camera and recently focused on a new target with some incredible results.

“This time I have taken a very deep image of the famous Sombrero galaxy (Messier 104) showing 136 globular clusters around it,” Olsen said via email. “I have seen a few images before of the Sombrero with a couple of globular clusters identified, but not to this extent. It is really quite dramatic to be able to see how they literally swarm around the galaxy.”

Highlighted in this image are 136 of the Sombrero’s brightest globular clusters, ranging in magnitudes from 17.5 to 22+, the names and magnitude details of these clusters Olsen has listed on his website. This galaxy may have up to 1,900 in total of these satellite galaxies. Some of these globulars are very large and one is classified as a separate Ultra Compact Dwarf galaxy, SUCD1, the closest known example of such an object.

“I hope you enjoy it,” Olsen said. “This was certainly a fun project, though surprisingly laborious to mark and match all these faint clusters!”

Indeed, this seems to be a nearly Herculean task!

It is not known how the Sombrero amassed such a large number of globular clusters. While the Sombrero (M 104) is a disk galaxy, usually large elliptical galaxies typically have a greater concentration of clusters, such as the approximately 12,000 globular clusters orbiting the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87. In comparison our own spiral Milky Way galaxy has only around 150-200 such clusters.

The Sombrero lies some 30 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Virgo.

You can find more information on Olsen’s website, and here’s a link to the full resolution image (1MB), which includes the list of details of all 136 globulars, and the unannotated full res image (1MB) is here.

Image details:
Date: 19th April, 22nd and 24th May 2012
Exposure: LRGB: 210:17:17:17m, total 4hrs 21mins
Telescope: 10″ Serrurier Truss Newtonian
Camera: QSI 683wsg with Lodestar guider
Filters: Astrodon LRGB E-Series Gen 2
Taken from Olsen’s observatory in Auckland, New Zealand

For more photos, check out Rolf’s astrophoto site.