The Whale and Hockey Stick (NGC 4631 and NGC 4656)
NGC 4631 is a big beautiful spiral galaxy seen edge-on (lower right) only 25 million light-years away towards the small northern constellation Canes Venatici. This galaxy's slightly distorted wedge shape suggests to some a cosmic herring and to others the popular moniker of The Whale Galaxy. Either way, it is similar in size to our own Milky Way. The Whale's dark interstellar dust clouds, yellowish core, and young blue star clusters are relatively easy to spot. A companion galaxy, the small elliptical NGC 4627, appears above the Whale Galaxy. At the upper left is the "Hockey Stick", another distorted galaxy, NGC 4656. The distortions and mingling trails of gas detected at other wavelengths suggest that all three galaxies have had close encounters with each other in their past. The Whale Galaxy is also known to have spouted a halo of hot gas glowing in x-rays.
Orion Optics UK AG16 Astrograph: SBIG 11000 CM: Titan Mount
21 x 4 minutes minutes (1hr 24 minutes total) single shot colour, processed with CCDStack, Photoshop, Pixinsight.
Data capture: 5th and 6th April 2013
Whale GalaxyNGC 4631NGC 4656Hockey Stick GalaxyW15