Often called “the Milky Way’s twin” NGC 7331 might well look like what our own Milky Way Galaxy would look like if some alien astronomer photographed the Milky Way from an observatory on an earth-like planet in that galaxy. Being angled in the way NGC 7331 is to our plane of view produces something of a three-dimensional affect in hi-powered astrophotos. This effect is further enhanced by the existence of four other galaxies seeming in a group along with NGC 7331. However the grouping is a line-of-sight phenomenon. NGC 7331 is actually way in the foreground. It is 49 million light years away while the group of galaxies next to it are about ten times that distance.
Returning to the thought that our Milky Way galaxy might look like NGC 7331 if viewed it from a earth-like planet in NGC 7331, it also might be that in that photo we might see companion galaxies to our Milky Way. The great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is part of our local group of galaxies. What a great shot that could be the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies in the same photograph along with some of the satellites galaxies surrounding those two.
A Rose by Any other Name?
Sometimes you will see NGC 7331 along with its “companion” galaxies called The Deer Lick Group. It’s not unusual that a some objects in the night sky are named after the discoverer. Nearby this galaxy group is Stephen’s Quintet, named after Edouard Stephan in 1877 who discovered the group. But The Deer Lick Group? Some might wonder if there was something deer like in the looks or the positions of these galaxies which they don’t see but others do? Not so. As it turns out the group was given that label by amateur astronomer Tomm Lornzin in his now out of print book 1000+ The Amateur Astronomers’ Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing in honor of Deer Lick Gap in the mountains of North Carolina where he observed and once had an especially fine view of this group of galaxies’ (1)
Sooo…… someday when the internet goes inter-galactic and some alien astronomer uploads a picture of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies together let them know that here on earth we call that view the Jupiter Ridge Group after the amateur astronomer who first envisioned that shot. Hint: What a great Photoshop project that would be to try and create that scene. Be sure to send us the result of your Jupiter Ridge Group.
Celestron EdgeHD 14″ at f/7 using QSI 583ws. 60 minutes luminance 105 minutes color data. Post processed in CCD Stack and Photoshop. I start most of my exposures with the intent of getting at least 4 hours of data. However this is made difficult between hardware glitches, sky conditions, short summer nights (and my inability to get decent images from two groups of images after a meridian flip).
Even so, with only 165 minutes of light on this image I am fairly pleased with the result. Anyone that can suggest how I can merge images from both sides of a meridian flip and not have blending issues at the straight edge overlaps, please let me know the secret.
 Saratoga Skies, “NGC 7331 (Deer Lick Group and Stephan’s Quintet)”, Jim Solomon