Messier 66: a new, deep image
When it started operations early in 2011, the PlaneWave 17″ robotic unit, part of the Virtual Telescope Project imaged Messier 66, a very nice spiral galaxy, about 36 millions of light years from us and showing fine details in its arms. About two years later, more images were collected and we decided to join both datasets, of similar, high quality.
A total of 44 single images, unfiltered, each integrated for 300 seconds, were available. All the images were unguided, completely trusting the Paramount ME robotic mount hosting the optical tube and have a scale of 0.63″/pixel. After careful calibration, the final, averaged image was carefully processed to optimize the details visible, respecting the original signal.
The result is above: the galaxy shows an amazing resolution and the limiting magnitude is around 22.0. It is impressive to see how many small and faint galaxies are lurking among the background stars. We are very happy with this result, showing the thrilling capabilities of the Virtual Telescope instruments.
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