M81 (Bode's Galaxy)
M81 (NGC 3031), Magnitude 6.9 Sb Spiral Galaxy, Size 21'x10', Constellation: Ursa Major.
M81 is one half of what I believe to be the most beautiful pair of DSOs in the sky (M82 being the other half). From a dark location with a wide field scope and eyepiece, the sight of these two magnificent galaxies in one field is breathtaking. That said, M82 is the better of the pair for visual observers. M81's delicate spiral arms are just barely "there" in a 12-inch telescope under very dark conditions.
M81 is thought to be about 11 million light years out in the void. While it looks pretty normal, its companion, M82, has obviously been badly "damaged" in an encounter with another galaxy. It is strange that M81 doesn't show the dramatic disruption of M82, if M81 is indeed the culprit. The only effect on this magnificent Grand Design spiral is, perhaps, that it's made the spiral pattern more pronounced.
I am not altogether happy with this shot, though it does show up the spiral shape pretty well. It will do until I get another shot at this magnificent beast, however.
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