- Telescopes for Hire
- Booking Information
- Astronomy Blog
- Dark Sky Locations
- Astro Resources
Winter and spring are a great time to track down two of the most impressive galaxies in the night sky -the spiral galaxy M81 and the irregular galaxy M82. Both galaxies are found in the constellation of Ursa Major The Great Bear and are located some 11.8 million light years from us. This means that the light we see from M81 and M82 has taken 11.8 million years to reach us, and started its journey way before humans roamed the Earth.
How to identify M81 and M82 galaxies
Sometimes known as Bode’s Nebula after Johann Elert Bode who discovered them both in 1774, M81 and M82 are quite bright galaxies that can be seen with binoculars from a moderately dark sky.
They are quite close to each other too. With 9×50 binoculars you’ll see two fuzzy patches of faint light – one slightly brighter and rounder than the other.
A small telescope reveals both in more detail. M81 appears as an oval patch of light with a bright core, while M82 appears elongated like a cigar. Because of its shape M82 is sometimes known as the Cigar Galaxy.
Larger telescopes, like the 300mm 12″ Orion Optics dobsonian that we have available to hire, deliver alot more detail. M81 appears as a larger oval area of light flanked by two stars that appear to be swallowed up by an extended disc of light surrounding the brighter core.
M82 shows a dark rift crossing near its central point, and also shows brighter clumps of material along its length.
This is how M81 and M82 should look like in a 25mm eyepiece with the 300mm 12″ dobsonian telescope. As you can see, both galaxies fit in the same field of view using a 25mm eyepiece.
How to Find M81 and M82 in Ursa Major
Start by looking up in the sky towards the North on a moonless night. You need to first identify the constellation of Ursa Major and its main stars Dubhe (Alpha UMa) and Merak (Beta UMa). Use a star map, planisphere or planeterium program like Stellarium if you are unsure where to look.
Next identify Polaris the Pole Star. Polaris is located due north almost midway between Ursa Major and the ‘W’ of Cassiopeia. If you’re struggling to identify it just imagine a straight line moving towards Cassiopeia along the axis formed by Merak and Dubhe. The next bright star you come to is Polaris.
Once you’ve got it look carefully at the patch of sky between Polaris and Dubhe. Even from an urban location you should just be able to make out a magnitude 4.5 star that forms the peak of a shallow triangle – Polaris and Dubhe forming the baseline of the triangle. Make sure your eyes are fully used to the dark first though!
It is just slightly below this magnitude 4.5 star, and slightly back towards Dubhe where you’ll find M81 and M82.
Orientation Map (click for larger image)
Screenshot courtesy of Stellarium
2 >> Select a telescope and check the availability indicator on the telescope information screen
3 >> Hire period is 7 or 14 nights, starting and ending Fridays. Nightly telescope hire is also available from our Southwest England hire bases
4 >> Make your booking request here, or phone Seb on 07884 001815
5 >> We will send you a booking confirmation. A delivery / pick up time is arranged for the start of the hire period, and a collection / drop-off time is fixed for the end of the hire period. These times are flexible.
6 >> You can pay for your telescope hire by cash on the day of collection or delivery. We also accept advance bank payments and paypal payments.
7 >> Everything you need to use the telescope is included. Our stargazing guides provide detailed information to help you navigate your way around the night sky.
8 >> Hope for clear skies!
We are located on the High Street (A5120) in Toddington close to Jct 12 of the M1. From the motorway head up the hill into Toddington. The road bears left at the Church. Continue along the road past the shops on your right. We are 100 yards or so up on the left.
SAT NAV – LU5 6BX
Dark Sky Telescope Hire
41 High Street
Tel. 07884 001815
Get the latest from us on Twitter