The IC 342/Maffei Group revealed
Deep wide-field CCD images in the optical and near-infrared have been acquired for 14 of the 16 known or suspected members of the IC 342/Maffei Group of galaxies, one of the closest groups to the Milky Way, and probably the closest group to M31. Because of their low Galactic latitude, all galaxies are heavily extinguished, and myriads of foreground stars are superimposed. A sophisticated algorithm built around DAOPHOT has been developed which successfully removes the foreground stars, making possible comprehensive morphological and photometric studies. The cleaned near-infrared images reveal the true morphology and extent of many of the galaxies for the first time, three of which are among the largest in the northern sky. Besides surface brightness profiles, precise total magnitudes and colors have been measured. Many of the results represent substantial revisions to previous estimates. The data will make possible new determinations of the distances and masses of the galaxies, which are crucial for evaluating the impact the group may have had upon the dynamical evolution of the Local Group.