Updated: Oct 28, 2019
M106 is often overlooked as "just another object in the Messier catalog", most likely because it doesn't have a cool nickname like most of the impressive Messier objects. M106 really IS impressive though, and has a very unique shape! This is due to it being considered as in-between a normal spiral galaxy (like M31, M33, or M81) and a barred galaxy (like M95, or M109).
M106 also has a companion galaxy, NGC 4217 which can be seen from its edge, so challenge yourself to capture it in the same frame! (visible in the bottom right corner on our image).
We used four filters for this: Luminance, Red, Green, and Blue. We made the mistake of not planning ahead, and did not spend any time imaging with the Hydrogen Alpha filter on. This is a huge mistake because the beauty of this galaxy mainly comes from the red tint in parts of the arms.
UPDATE: We were able to add one hour and a half of Hydrogen Alpha on a different night. You can see our final image below, and you can scroll down a little further to see it without the added Ha!
Messier 106 (LRGBHa), with NGC 4217 in the bottom right corner
Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono
Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9
Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount
Acquisition: ASI Air
Total Exposure Time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes
Filters: L (51m) / R (48m) / G (48m) / B (48m) / Ha (1.5 hour)
LOCATING MESSIER 106
M106 can be found in the constellation of the Hunting Dogs: Canes Venatici. The easiest way to find it is to start from Ursa Major on the star forming the bottom of the Big Dipper: Phecda. Make an imaginary line southwest to Car Caroli, the brightest star in Canes Venatici, and you will find M106 about halfway through from Phecda to Car Caroli.
M106 may be faint but has a high surface brightness making it a good target to look at. Messier 106 can be seen with binoculars and any telescope. Binoculars will show a faint patch of light, whereas telescopes will reveal a little bit of structure and even some details in the spiral arms depending on the size of the instrument.
Two supernovas discovered since 1981
Home to more than 400 billion stars
Considered as being between a normal and a barred spiral galaxy
SINGLE SHOT & PROCESSING OF MESSIER 106
Like we said, we used four filters to capture Messier 106: L,R,G and B. We're not sure if we should have used Ha instead of R, or as an extra. All we know is that we definitely should have spent some time with the Ha filter on.
Below you can see the stacked images for each filter. The Luminance filter is the one that yielded the most details.
Messier 106, stacked images for L/R/G/B, with each 16 frames (17 for L)
And here is the result when we stack all of these into one image:
The details don't pop out at first glance, but a lot of the noise is gone and it gives us an overall cleaner image ready to be processed.
All four filters stacked - 3 hours and 15 minutes unprocessed
Before updating this post, we displayed our image of M106 without the added Hydrogen Alpha. You can see on the image below that there is much less reds than on the updated image. It also seems less noisy than the updated version, probably because of the fact that we had to crop a little more and that the Ha was taken in a worse Bortle zone than the LRGB.
Click the arrow to compare both versions!
Messier 106 (LRGB), with NGC 4217 in the bottom right corner
OUR CATALOG ENTRY VIDEO
Below is our short video about our capture on M106. This is one of these very quick update videos to keep our viewers up to date each time we image something that is not part of our Episodes and is added to our Messier catalog.
Messier 106 is a great target for any Astrophotographer. It is a good idea to use an Ha filter to really get the reds in the arms, and we are very saddened that we did not think of this when we were on the field. We hope to update this post at some point with the addition of Hydrogen Alpha!
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