Updated: Jun 9, 2020
The Phantom galaxy was discovered in 1780 by Pierre Méchain, who then gave its location to Charles Messier to include in his catalog.
The Phantom galaxy is a beautiful spiral galaxy that is relatively similar to the Milky Way in size. In photographs, Messier 74 has some similarities with Messier 33 (The Triangulum galaxy). Both have very bright stars in their spiral arms.
The Phantom galaxy can be very difficult to observe, as it has the 2nd lowest surface brightness of all the ones in the Messier catalog, hence its name: The Phantom. We were able to spot it using our eyepiece, but this is thanks to our Bortle 3 desert sky.
We spent 3 hours and a half capturing photons to get this image. We actually had trouble with our equipment for two nights in a row trying to photograph it, so in reality, with all the driving, setting up, etc, it took more than 21 hours of our time...
You can see how we captured this target in Episode 11 of Galactic Hunter!
Camera: Canon 7D Mk II
Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9
Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount
Total Exposure Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes
70 lights - 15 Darks - 15 Bias
How to find the Phantom Galaxy
The Phantom lies about 32 million light years away from our home, in the constellation of Pisces, right next to the constellation of the flying horse Pegasus. For reference, Messier 104 (The Sombrero galaxy) is located just as far, although it is actually pretty close for galaxies.
To find Messier 74, first locate the brightest star in Pisces, Kullat Nunu. Your target will be 1.5 degrees northeast from that star.
Discovered in 1780
Was initially cataloged as a cluster by John Herschel
Part of the M74 group of 5 to 7 galaxies
SINGLE SHOT & PROCESSING OF M74
Our first night trying to capture M74, in September, the temperature in the Nevada desert was still very hot. We are talking 110+ degrees. Our camera, the Canon 7D Mark II, is a really great DSLR camera, but it is not cooled in any way. All 70 of our shots from that night went to the trash, as the final image, even processed as best as we could, was simply... horrific. See for yourself:
Single shot. Click the arrow to see the final image with 3.5 hours of data.
We then went back for a second night, but our equipment decided not to cooperate. During the third night, the temperature after dark was really cold, and our single shot was much better.
Single shot of M74, in medium/cold temperatures.
A crop on our final image reveals a bright core, with beautiful, long and defined spiral arms. Faint gases are visible a little around the galaxy.
Galactic Hunter Episode #11 - The Phantom Galaxy
The Phantom Galaxy was the focus of the 11th episode of Galactic Hunter!
Discover how we captured this target below.
Although Messier 74 is not one of the most impressive targets visually, it certainly is a great target to photograph. We hope you will be able to capture it in one night, instead of going through three nights like we did!
Antoine & Dalia Grelin
GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS
Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!
Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloguing photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby. This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes. Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.
Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations. Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder. Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories?This book groups the constellations in a logical order, so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group.The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease.The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing, and a learning journey through the ages.