The image seen below is the spiral of the South Weathervane captured with the Dark Energy Camera originally designed for the Dark Energy Survey. The image is one of the deepest images ever captured of Messier 83, a spiral galaxy more commonly known as the South Weathervane. The Dark Energy Camera was built by the United States Department of Energy and is mounted on the four-meter Victor M. Blanco telescope. at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).
Although taking incredibly detailed images of the South Weathervane is not what the Dark Energy Camera was initially designed for, the camera has completed its main job. The Dark Energy Survey took place between 2013 and 2019. The observatory allows members of the astronomical community to register to use the camera, and the collected data is processed and made publicly available.
Messier 83 is located in the southern constellation of Hydra. It is oriented almost entirely from the front, seen from Earth, allowing us to observe its spiral structure in extreme details. The galaxy is about 15 million light years away, making it relatively close to Earth in astronomical terms. It has a diameter of about 50,000 light years, being smaller than the Milky Way, with a diameter of 100,000 to 200,000 light years.
Astronomers used six different filters on the camera to create the image seen above. Filters allow astronomers to select which wavelengths of light they want to see in the sky, which is crucial for scientific observations. Limiting specific wavelengths allows color images to be created. The researchers point out that the dark tendrils in the galaxy are bands of dust that block light, while clustered bright red dots are caused by hot, bright hydrogen gas that identifies areas as centers of star formation.
The researchers used 163 Dark Energy Cam exposures with a combined total exposure time of more than 11.3 hours to make the image seen above. The image is certainly beautiful and shows what Earth-based telescopes and their instruments are capable of.