M81 and M82








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M81 and M82 are in Ursa Major, close to the northernmost end of the 'false pointers' of the Plough and close enough together to fit in one low magnifcation telescope eyepiece. They are both about 7 million light years away.

Taking M81 first, it is a spiral galaxy, slightly inclined to us. The first time I ever saw M81 through a telescope, in 1993, there just happened to be a supernova in it. Visually it is beautiful.

M82, on the other hand, is an irregular galaxy, neither ellipical nor spiral. It is also edge on to us, appearing as a long streak with some structure visible. Diagonally across the centre runs a dust lane.

Individually both M81 and M82 are lovely - together they are something quite special.