Updated: Mar 29, 2020

Spiral galaxy M81 and starburst galaxy M82 are two magnificent neighboring galaxies, that are almost always photographed as a pair. M82 (The Cigar Galaxy) is one of our favorite galaxies. It is a starburst galaxy which its core is 100+ times brighter than the one in our Milky Way.

Here is our image of the pair, we only spent 3 hours on it and are pretty happy with the result!


Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 3 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

60 lights - 15 Darks - 15 Bias

ISO: 400

A cropped version of Bode's Galaxy. There are great details in the arms, as well as the core. Notice how the color differs as the gases expands from the center.

Here is Hubble's version of the Cigar Galaxy. You can clearly see the red gases getting expelled from the center of the galaxy! Getting those with a DSLR can be quite a challenge.

This is our cropped image of M82. It looks completely blend after seeing Hubble's, but that was the point.

You can see that some of the red gas is visible. The only way to have some more is a longer total exposure time, the use of filters, or the use of a CCD camera.

Locating Bode's Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy

Both galaxies are visible through binoculars and telescopes, but not with the naked eye. Depending on the instrument, M81 will look like a blurry oval shape with a bright center, while M82 will appear as a thin line of light.

The pair are located in the constellation of the Big Dipper: Ursa Major. The easiest way to find them is to first spot the bright star Dubhe, which forms the top point of the Big Dipper pan, then travel about 10 degrees northwest to spot the two galaxies.

  • The pair were discovered in 1774

  • M82 is the closest starburst galaxy to Earth

  • M81’s tidal forces affect M82 and increases its star forming activity


Although not the best for DSLR lens astrophotography, M81 and M82 can still be captured without a telescope. Below if our image of the pair using a 300mm lens on a Canon t3i and iOptron Skytracker

You also can photograph M81 and M82 without tracking the sky! Here is our version of the pair with the same camera and lens as above, but doing really short exposures on a simple tripod for about 3 hours.


The processing is fairly simple, however, it may be a challenge to make the red hues of the Cigar galaxy visible. Longer exposure times or the use of a filter will help to bring out the red color.

Unfortunately, the only single shot we still have from this target is the unguided test shot we did. It was still a 3 minute exposure, so you can just imagine that all the stacked single shots we had were the same as this one, without the star trails.

Final Thoughts

M81 & M82 are two wonderful targets for any amateur astrophotographer. When taking a photo of the two, make sure to double check that both galaxies fit nicely in the frame of the camera.


The Astrophotographer's Guidebook

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!

The Astrophotographer's Journal

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.

The Constellations Handbook

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.

#astronomy #astrophotography #messiercatalog #messier #galaxy #nebula #cluster #stars #space #galactichunter #nevada #lasvegas #canon #bigdipper #telescope #messier81 #Messier82 #M82 #M81 #cigargalaxy #bodesgalaxy

4,231 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Quick Links

Social Media

  • Galactic Hunter Facebook
  • Galactic Hunter YouTube
  • Galactic Hunter Instagram
  • Galactic Hunter Amazon
  • Galactic Hunter Flickr
  • Galactic Hunter Twitter


  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Flickr Social Icon

© 2016-2020 by Antoine Grelin.