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How to See Galaxies With A Telescope?

A galaxy is referred to as the collection of dust, gas, hundreds of billions of stars, and their planets which are held together by gravity. A galaxy is the most distant object you can see with your telescope. They appear with different shapes and colors and we can see the combined glare of all the stars inside though the most luminosity comes from its core.

What are Galaxies?

Galaxies are vast cosmic structures that consist of stars, planets, and vast clouds of gas and dust, all bound together by gravity. They come in a variety of shapes, mostly spirals and ellipticals, as well as those with less orderly appearances, usually dubbed irregular. Most large galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers, some with billions of times the Sun’s mass. The Milky Way’s central black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, has a mass four million times greater than the Sun. Galaxies are categorized according to their visual morphology as elliptical, spiral, or irregular. Many are thought to have supermassive black holes at their centers. It is estimated that there are between 200 billion to 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. Most galaxies are 1,000 to 100,000 parsecs in diameter and are separated by distances on the order of millions of parsecs. Large galaxies grow by colliding and merging with smaller ones. They are called cannibal galaxies. The stars and gas we see make up less than 10 percent of the mass of a galaxy. The rest is made up of a mysterious substance known as “dark matter”. Most galaxies are between 10 billion and 13.6 billion years old. Some are almost as old as the universe itself, which formed around 13.8 billion years ago. The youngest known galaxy formed approximately 500 million years ago. The Hubble Space Telescope is the first major optical telescope to orbit Earth, providing significant contributions to the study and understanding of galaxies.

Can you see Galaxies with a telescope?

Yes, space object galaxies can be observed with a telescope. Galaxies come in various shapes, including elliptical, spiral, and irregular, and exhibit features such as supermassive black holes at their centers and locations within larger cosmic structures like groups, clusters, and superclusters. The optical quality of galaxies when viewed through a telescope is influenced by factors like the number of stars forming in the galaxy, the amount of dust present, and the design of the telescope. The primary functions of galaxies in astronomy include providing information about the structure and evolution of the universe, serving as a tool for measuring distances, and understanding the distribution of matter. Reflector telescopes with an aperture between 150mm to 250mm and a focal length between 750mm and 1250mm are suitable for observing galaxies.

Quick Guide to Observe a Galaxy

Select an astronomy app or galaxy catalog to get started. Learn the position of the galaxy you want to examine by looking through the Galaxy catalog or app. Center your telescope in the finder and aim it at the Galaxy. Select a medium-range eyepiece with the smallest available magnification. For this, a Barlow lens or 10–20 mm eyepiece works nicely. Fix the finder scope’s alignment once more if you have trouble finding the galaxy. Once you’ve located the galaxy, check and adjust your focus. A 70-90mm telescope will give you excellent views of galaxies. A 50x magnification is sufficient to display the entire Galaxy.

To begin, choose an astronomy app or galaxy catalog.

Brightness is the main thing we observe in a galaxy from where we can learn about its shape and the other objects around it. You can use a galaxy catalog or astronomy app to find which galaxies are available tonight and their location. Several astronomy apps like CelestronSkyPortalapp are there to guide you to find a galaxy you can observe and its magnitude. To understand how hard it will be to see a galaxy, just multiply the surface brightness by the magnitude. The larger the number, the harder it is to see the galaxy. This is not a scientific way, though used by many. This provides at least a measure of difficulty.

If you want to follow a catalog, you may look for the Morphological Catalog of Galaxies (abbreviated MCG) with more than 30,000 objects, the Uppsala General Catalog (UGC) with more than 12,000 objects and more all of which provides correct locations of the galaxies.

How to find a Galaxy?

  1. Go through the Galaxy catalog or app and learn the location of the galaxy you want to observe.
  2. Point your telescope toward the Galaxy and center it in the finder.
  3. Take a medium-range eyepiece with the lowest magnification power possible. A Barlow lens or 10-20 mm eyepiece works great for this. If you find a problem detecting the galaxy, fix the alignment of the finder scope again.
  4. After spotting the galaxy, check your focus and fix it.

4 Tips to observe Galaxies in the best way.

  • Use as large a scope as possible and be patient while finding the galaxy you want to observe.
  • Use a medium power eyepiece at the beginning. Then gradually increase the magnification.
  • Avoid using filters as they may reduce the brightness of the galaxy making it faint. But if you are in a light-polluted area, you can use light pollution filters like the 82 A filter. Sometimes, light and dark blue filters on spiral galaxies like the Whirlpool galaxy increase the contrast of the arms.
  • Use smart telescopes if possible as they provide more galaxy detail than the traditional eyepiece. You will also be able to save the final processed image and use it later.

What Galaxies are best to observe with a telescope?

  • The Milky Way: We live in this galaxy, so we can not get the total view of this. We just can see the other side of the Milky Way. A 6-inch telescope is enough to observe this.
  • The Andromeda Galaxy: 6 inches telescope can spot the Andromeda. But if you want to get the detailed spiral structure, a 16-20 inch telescope works the best.
  • Virgo A Galaxy (M87): This galaxy is located in the Virgo constellation. An 8-inch telescope is recommended to observe it with a little detail though a 4-inches telescope can identify it.
  • Bode’s Galaxy (M81) & Cigar Galaxy (M82): These two groups of galaxies are located 12 million light-years away from Earth and separated by only 1 degree. They are one of the most observed galaxies as they show active star formation activity.
  • Sombrero Galaxy (M104): The beautiful spiral· galaxy M 104 is known for its ring of dust and supermassive black hole.
  • The Whale Galaxy (NGC 4631 ): 12-inch telescope can reveal huge clumps of stars in its spiral arms.
  • Galaxy clusters: Virgo Cluster and the Fornax Cluster are the popular galaxy clusters viewable by telescopes. A number of Messier objects including the brightest M 49, and NGC galaxies are located in these clusters.

What telescope to see Galaxies?

Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope, Celestron – StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ Smartphone App-Enabled scope and Gskyer 130EQ Professional Astronomical Reflector are great telescopes to see Galaxy. A list of telescopes to see the Galaxies has more telescope options that can see Galaxies very clearly.

What size telescope to see Galaxies?

With a 70-90mm telescope, you will get great views of Galaxies. The more the aperture, the better the views and the sharper details. An 8-inch telescope is recommended to observe a galaxy. If you want to observe the star formation and the changes due to gravity in a galaxy, you have to use at least a 16-20 inch aperture that in addition will give you fancy colorful images.

What magnification is required to see Galaxies?

50x magnification is enough to show the whole Galaxy. However, 150x magnification is better to see the details. 

Enjoying Galaxies? Here are other things to see with your telescope.

The Milky Way is one of the most attractive night sky objects viewable by your telescope. There are other galaxies like Andromeda, the Whale galaxy, and more that appear with amazing details. The moon and all the planets of our solar system also show their details even in a 6-inch telescope. You may also find a myriad of star clusters, nebulae, and binary star systems with your optical aid. ‘List of things to see with a telescope’ shortlists several night sky objects you can observe. You will get the articles on the detailed guidelines there too.

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