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Messier 102 - The Spindle Galaxy | Tips for Astrophotographers

Updated: May 18, 2023

Messier 102 is a lenticular galaxy seen edge-on in Draco. Near M102 and included in our field of view is another galaxy, NGC 5907! Our image is just 2 hours and 15 minutes of exposure time. My laptop got full and SGP did not give me any error message until sunrise... it just kept writing 0KB files all night that all ended up in the trash 🤦🏼‍♂️. Because I was not very hopeful about the end result, I also did not bother stacking darks or flats. In the end, the result is not bad though!

Those are not the best targets to image unless you have a large telescope, but it had to be done for the purpose of our growing Messier catalog!

Object Designation: M102

Also known as: The Spindle Galaxy

Constellation: Draco

Object Type: Lenticular Galaxy

Distance: 40.8 million light-years away

Magnitude: 9.9

Discovered in: 1781

M102 astrophotography with a refractor telescope

The image on the left shows our main target, the Spindle Galaxy (M102).

Messier 102 was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781. It was then entered into Charles Messier's catalog but later believed to be a duplicate of M101.

As of today, M102's entry is known as one of Messier's mistakes, although it is still officially included and named M102.

Knife Edge Galaxy astrophotography

The galaxy on the right is NGC 5907, also known as the Knife Edge or Splinter Galaxy.

Hubble’s picture of that object is pretty cool as you can see a bunch of spiraling gases going crazy around the galaxy, which is impossible to see here. I believe that this gas can be brought up in amateur astrophotography is imaging from a Bortle 1 with a fast telescope for at least 20 hours.

Besides M102 and NGC 5907, several other galaxies can be seen all over our main image as you can see below! My favorite object in this wide 655mm field of view is the spiral galaxy visible near the bottom. I really wish I could photograph that one with a large telescope someday!

The image below is the result of just 2 hours and 15 minutes of total exposure taken from a Bortle 3 zone.