Deep sky EAA session-15th April 2022

A brief deep sky session under a near full moon.

Meade LX90 200mm ACF with F6.3 focal reducer, Lodestar Mono X 2 camera and Starlight Live.

Globular cluster M3

M51 Whirlpool interacting galaxies

M63 Sunflower

M81 Bodes Galaxy

M82 Cigar Galaxy

M101 Pinwheel

NGC 4147 Globular cluster

NGC 4565 Edge on spiral

M13 Hercules Globular cluster – 1no 2.5 second capture

Messier 87 – Jet of synchrotron radiation

So here is another capture from 02nd April 2022.

This is of the super-giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 in the constellation of Virgo. M87 is one of many galaxies within the Virgo cluster. This is one of the largest known galaxies in the local group with over several trillion stars. Also known as NGC 4486 or Virgo A, M87 is some 54 million light years from Earth. M87 is one of the most massive galaxies in the local universe. At the very centre of this galaxy is a supermassive black hole of 6.5 billion solar masses. As material is accreted into this black hole, the energy released produces a jet of subatomic particles that are accelerated to velocities near the speed of light. This is a jet of synchrotron radiation and can be seen very faintly at approximately 2 o’clock in the image below.

M87 with jet at 2 o’clock

Close up

Hubble image below. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team

Latest deep sky session – 02nd April 2022

It has been quite a few years since I last made an entry on this blog. But with some increased enthusiasm I have started to practice EEA/EEVA again and getting some real enjoyment out of this side of astronomy.

I am using a 200mm SCT telescope with a 0.63 focal reducer and a Lodestar mono x2 camera. I capture a series of short exposures that are stacked in Starlight Live software in real-time to improve signal to noise ratio and allow near real time observation of very feint objects that would not be possible to observe through the telescope eyepiece.

Below are a selection of recent captures of three of the Hickson Galaxy clusters observed on 02nd April 2022. The Hickson catalogue is a collection of 100 compact galaxy clusters produced by Paul Hickson in 1982.

Hickson 57 in Leo – Also known as Copeland’s Septet – Distance circa 400 million light years away

Hickson 61 in Coma Berenices – the Box

Hickson 68 in Canes Venatici

Realm of the Galaxies (From Camberwell) – 21st February 2015

Latest batch of captures from the orange skies of Camberwell. A very rewarding session last night with unusually good skies.

The main objective of the evening was to attempt to see some of the more distant galaxy clusters from my home location.

So these are up first. Whilst feint and fuzzy, just being able to see such distant galaxy clusters from my backyard has been a long time aim and to be able to see these at all from the polluted skies of London is very satisfying indeed.

First up: Abell 1367 The Leo Cluster – Part of the Great Wall – A distance of 280 Million Light Years. Other than 6 or 7 bright stars in the image below, all other items are Galaxies, each not dissimilar to our own Milky Way.

The Milky Way (and our local group of galaxies) is heading towards the Great Wall drawn by the gravitational pull of the Great Attractor, a localised concentration of an unimaginable quantum of mass which resides further distant still, at a break neck speed of 22,000,000 KM/Hour but we will never reach it because the fabric of space is expanding by a similar amount due to the measured expansion of the Universe or ‘Dark Flow’, discovered by Edwin Hubble.

Abell 1367 - NGC 3837 - Part of the Great Wall - 21.02.jpg

Second: Copelands Septet or Hickson 57. A group of 8no interacting, possibly merging galaxies, also in the constellation of Leo. (upper right of centre in the capture below). This cluster is at a staggering distance of 480 Million Light Years which means that the light photons observed last night had been travelling the equivalent to 3.5% of the age of the Universe to reach my telescope/camera last night.

Copelands Septet NGC3753 - 21.02.jpg

Third: Abell 1656, also part of the Great Wall. This cluster, along with the Leo Cluster above is part of a Super Cluster known as the Coma Super Cluster with some 1000+ identified Galaxy members. Abell 1656 is some 320 Million Light Years away in the Constellation of Coma Berenices.

NGC4889 - Abell 1656 - Part of Great Wall - 21.02.jpg

Finally: NGC3158 and region – Galaxy Cluster in Leo Minor some 275 Million Light Years away.

NGC3158 region - Galaxy Cluster - Leo Minor 21.02.jpg

On to a few other objects a little closer to home:

Below is a fantastic example of an edge on spiral galaxy – NGC4565. This one is known as the Needle Galaxy and from end to end is approximately 130,000 Light Years in length. NGC4565 has a very bright nuclei and the dark dust lane is also clearly evident in its disc. The Needle Galaxy is in the constellation of Coma Berenices and is between 30-50 Million Light Years away.

NGC4565 Needle Galaxy - 21.02

NGC4565 Needle Galaxy – 21.02

Next up is M81 – Bodes Galaxy. This is a popular target and lies in the Constellation of Ursa Major and is a mere 12 Million Light Years distant. M81 is also a spiral galaxy and lies at an inclined angle to our vantage point. It has an active galactic nuclei that is believed to contain a 70 Million Solar Mass black hole.   Its spiral arms can be made out in the image below.

M81 - Bodes Galaxy - 21.02

M81 – Bodes Galaxy – 21.02

Third: Another favourite, The Whirlpool Galaxy M51 – A face on Spiral interacting with the adjacent smaller galaxy. In the Constellation of Canes Venatici. At a distance of approximately 25 Million Light Years.

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy -21.02

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy -21.02

Closer to home still. Below is a selection of other objects located within our own Galaxy system the Milky Way which were also captured during last nights observing session:

The Owl Nebula / M97 – A Planetary Nebula. Again in Ursa Major some 2100 Light Years away. M97 is thought to be only 8000 years old and was formed from an outfall of gas including Hydrogen, Helium, Nitrogen and Oxygen when an aging star began to run out of fuel and has shed its outer layers. At its centre resides a White Dwarf.

M97 NGC3587 Owl PN - 21.02

M97 NGC3587 Owl PN – 21.02

Below is another favourite – IC434, The Horsehead is a Dark Nebula, some 1500 Light Years away in the Constellation of Orion.

 Horsehead IC434 - 21.02
Below is Globular Cluster M3. Made up of some 500,000 stars and thought to be over 8 Billion Years old and one of the best examples of this type of object in the Northern Hemisphere. M3 is approximately 34,000 Light Years away.

M3 Globular -21.02

M3 Globular -21.02

January Deep Sky Bonanza

A selection of video captures from recent astronomy antics.

Eskimo Nebula NGC2392 – A Lovely green planetary nebula in the Constellation of Gemini. A medium sized star which is shedding outer layers of gas as it nears the end of its life.

Eskimo Nebula - NGC 2392 - 24.01.15

Eskimo Nebula – NGC 2392 – 24.01.15

Another shot of Hubble’s variable nebula, see last weeks post for details.

Hubble's Variable Nebula 24.01

The Flame Nebula NGC 2024 – Clouds of Hydrogen gas illuminated by high energy Ultra Violet light from  nearby star Alintak (out of view), the east star in the belt of Orion.

The Flame Nebula NGC 2024

The Flame Nebula NGC 2024

The Horsehead Nebula IC 434, again in Orion. This was taken with a 72mm refractor telescope with a narrow band HA filter to cut out some of light pollution. It is a stack of several 30 second frames.

The Horsehead Nebula IC 434

The Horsehead Nebula IC 434

Bodes Galaxy M81 in Ursa Major, named after Johann Bode who discovered it in 1774. M81 is 12 million Light Years away. The largest member in a cluster of 33 interacting galaxies known as the M81 group. The centre of the galaxy harbours a 70 million solar mass Black Hole! Hard to see but can you make out a spiral arm?

Bodes Galaxy M81

Bodes Galaxy M81

M82 – Again in Ursa Major, a star burst galaxy and in a gravitational tryst with M82 above along with 32 other galaxies in the M81 group . Apparently 5 times more luminous than the Milky Way. Rapid star formation in the last 100million years or so is attributable to the gravitational influence of nearby M81.



The Whirlpool Galaxy M51, Canes Venatici – A face on spiral galaxy discovered by Charles Messier in 1773. Currently interacting with companion galaxy NGC5195. The first to be classified as a Spiral Galaxy. Some 25 Million Light Years away, M51 is approximately 60,000 Light Years across.

M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

The Leo Triplet – Three interacting galaxies located in the Constellation of Leo. Some 35 Million Light Years distant.

The Leo Triplet

The Leo Triplet

For comparison, below is an image from the European Southern observatory of the Leo Triplet:

Leo Triplet. Credit: ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM

Leo Triplet. Credit:

Deep Sky Highlights – Sunday 18th January 2015

M1/NGC19523 The Crab – Supernova Remnant – An expanding cloud of dust from the explosion of a Supernova that was observed by the Japanese, Chinese in 1054 A.D. One of the brightest & conspicuous examples of a SN remnant. Back in 1054, the exploding star was so bright that it was visible during the daytime for several months. The Crab is located in the Constellation of Taurus. The cloud of dust is still expanding at about 1500KM per second. At the centre of the Crab is the collapsed core of the star that went supernova in 1054. This is now a Pulsar which is in fact a rapidly rotating and extraordinarily dense Neutron star, only a few KM in diameter and yet 1.4x the mass of our Sun, that emits a pulse of high energy X-ray radiation every 0.033 seconds as the Neutron star rotates at 30 times per second. The Crab is about 6 Light Years across and at a distance of 6,500 Light Years from Earth.

M1 The Crab

M1 The Crab

Below is a Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab SN Remnant for comparison:

M1 - The Crab. Credit: Hubble/NASA

M1 – The Crab. Credit: Hubble/NASA

IC 434 The Horsehead Nebula – Slightly better resolved image (than last week) of the Horsehead Nebula in the Constellation of Orion. A Dark Nebula of dust silhouetted against the feint glow of Emission Nebula IC 434 behind.


The Horsehead

The Horsehead

Comet C/2014/Q2/Lovejoy – A visitor from the Oort Cloud in the outer Solar System and travelling at a speed of 133,000 Km per hour. Comet Lovejoy is known as a long period comet and it orbits the Sun once every 11,000 years. It comes closest to the Sun on 30th January at a distance of 1.3 Astronomical Units or 1.3 x the distance between the Sun and the Earth. It is currently about 95 Million KM from Earth and now passing through the Constellation of Aries.

Lovejoy is the brightest comet for some time at visual magnitude of about 5.0, just about visible in binoculars from London. Difficult to see in image below but I think a feint tail is detectable to the upper left of the comet’s head.

Comet C/2014/Lovejoy

Comet C/2014/Lovejoy


Deep Space……from the Orange Skies of Camberwell

The results of a brief real time video observing session last night.

First up is a very feint Horsehead Nebula in Orion. An impossible visible target from the light polluted skies of London but within reach with a 30sec video exposure using a Lodestar Colour camera and the free Lodestar Live software.

The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is located to the south of Alnitak the Eastern of the 3 stars in Orion’s belt. This dark cloud of molecular dust is about 1500 Light Years from Earth.

The Horsehead shape is just about visible as the dark indentation to the red emission nebula behind. The Horsehead is dark because it is an opaque molecular dust cloud that lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. The Horsehead is a stellar nursery and within it many young stars are forming as the dust and gas coalesce through gravity and begin the process of star formation.


Horsehead Nebula Orion IC434

Horsehead Nebula Orion IC434

Next is the Great Nebula of Orion M42 is an emission and reflection nebula, illuminated by hot luminous stars emitting high energy ultra violet radiation. Located in the sword of Orion, M42 is the closest and most prominent star formation region to Earth (about 1500 light years distant). Again an area of massive star formation within immense molecular clouds of gas and dust with some 700 stars in various stages of star formation.  The nebula is about 30 light years across. The bright area at its very centre is a very young open cluster of stars known as the trapezium cluster. M42 is thought to contain the mass equivalent to 2000 Suns. The smaller M43 or Flame Nebula is to the upper right in the image below.

M42 The Great Orion Nebula

M42 The Great Orion Nebula

Click on the artist impressions below showing the location of the Orion Nebula in relation to our Sun/the Solar System and the rest of the Milky Way.

Orion Spur Credit Wikipedia


Artists impression of Milky Way

Artists impression of Milky Way Credit Wikipedia

Lastly, Hubble’s Variable Nebula NGC 2261.

This peculiar object is located in the constellation of Monoceros, to the East of Orion. Discovered by W Herschel in 1783.

This is an emission and reflection nebula that is enveloping the erratic variable star R Monocerotis and is at a current visual Magnitude of 10.0. The variable nature of the brightness was first noted by Edwin Hubble in 1916 from a series of photographs. The unpredictable variation is thought to be due to shadows cast by the dense regions of dust passing by the star at its tip which cannot be seen directly and the light is only visible as the scattered light reflecting on dust particles in the surrounding molecular cloud.

Hubble’s Variable Nebula is about 3000 Light Years away. The cone shaped nebula is about 3 Light Years long and 1.5 Light Years across. The variable star R Mon is a very young star some 300,000 years old, of a mass of 10x our Sun  and has the illumination equivalent to 80x that of our Sun.


Hubble's Variable Nebula

Hubble’s Variable Nebula

For comparison is an image of the Hubble Variable Nebula taken using the Hubble Space Telescope:

Hubble Nebula using Hubble Space Telescope. Credit NASA

Hubble Nebula using Hubble Space Telescope. Credit NASA

Deep sky astronomy – Saturday 07th June

Some clear skies!

Video astronomy snaps of some deep sky objects from last night:

Messier 13 – The Hercules Globular Cluster. The brightest such object visible from the Northern Hemisphere. It is located in the constellation of Hercules and is high in the southern sky at this time of the year and well placed for observing. Visually, through the telescope from London last night this just looked like a very feint fuzzy blob with no stars resolved but with the use of a video camera, integrating about 20 seconds this is what was seen.  M13 which is 25,000 light years from Earth and measuring 145 light years in diameter is understood to contain perhaps some 300,000 stars and is thought to be over 11 billion years old was discovered by Edmond Halley in 1714 and subsequently catalogued by Charles Messier in 1764.

Messier 13 The Great Hercules Globular Cluster

Messier 13 The Great Hercules Globular Cluster


Messier 57 – The Ring Nebula – in the Constellation of Lyra. This is a 90 second exposure, The ring nebula is known as a Planetary Nebula and is produced when a medium sized star begins to enter the final stages of its life as it starts to run out of fuel. As it does so it violently expells a shell of ionised gas into surrounding space. A white dwarf star remains in the very centre of the ‘ring’ and is just distinguishable.M57 is 2300 light years away.

Messier 57 The Ring Nebula

Messier 57 The Ring Nebula


Messier 27 – The Dumbbell Nebula, also a Planetary Nebula, in the constellation of Vulpecula and is about 1300 light years away. The Dumbbell Nebula has been calculated to be expanding in all directions at about 31Km/second and the Planetary Nebula is thought to have formed some 10000 years ago.

Messier 27 The Dumbbell Nebula

Messier 27 The Dumbbell Nebula


Messier 51 – The Whirlpool Galaxy – This is grand design face on spiral galaxy which is interacting with a smaller galaxy M51b seen above the larger galaxy. The merging galaxies are at an approximate distance of 23million light years from us. M51 has been calculated to have a mass equivalent to 160 billion times that of the Sun and a radius of 43000 light years and is undergoing significant star formation in its spiral arms which can be clearly seen below.

Messier 51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

Messier 51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

For comparison a Hubble image of M51 can be seen below:

M51 Hubble Credit: NASA

M51 Hubble Credit: NASA


Hadley Rille – Apollo 15 landing site

Image of the Archimedes and Mons Hadley region. Image taken from home in London on 09th March using a 200mm SCT telescope and an Imaging Source camera.  A 60 second AVI file is recorded at 15 frames per second and then the frames are stacked in Registax software to reduce the detrimental affects of the atmosphere and then tweaked to bring out the detail. Hadley Rille can just be made out.

Archimedes and Hadley Rille

Archimedes and Hadley Rille

The site of the Apollo 15 landing on 30th July 1971, just to the East of hadley Rille is circled in the close up from the same image below:

Hadley Rille - Apollo 15 Landing site

Hadley Rille – Apollo 15 Landing site

The image below is a high resolution image of the same area for the Apollo 15 mission from NASA:

Apollo 15 landing site Credit: NASA

Apollo 15 landing site Credit: NASA

Another NASA image from the Apollo 15 mission with the landing location indicated:

Apollo 15 landing site - NASA photograph AS15-1537[M]

Credit: NASA

The image below is from the Apollo 15 lunar module of the landing site taken from the final orbit before landing:

Apollo 15 Fly By

Apollo 15 Fly By Credit: NASA

The 3D image below is from the more recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO):

LRO 3D image

LRO 3D image Credit: NASA

The first use of lunar rover which travelled a total distance of 27KM on the Apollo 15 mission. Image below is of David Scott and the rover at the very eastern edge of Hadley Rille.

Lunar Rover at the Edge of Hadley Rille

Lunar Rover at the Edge of Hadley Rille Credit: NASA

Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission to the Moon and was considered at the time to be one of the most successful, the 2 astronauts who actually landed David Scott and James Irwin stayed for just under 3 days before heading back home.

Astronaut Jim Irvin with the Apollo 15 lunar module and rover in front of Mons Hadley

Astronaut Jim Irvin with the Apollo 15 lunar module and rover in front of Mons Hadley Credit: NASA

Sunday in the Solar System part II

A few more images of the Moon from Sunday 09th March along with an accompanying tune:

Wallace and Mons Ampere region

Wallace and Mons Ampere region

Wallace is the remains of a crater that has been flooded by lava just to the left of centre in this image. It lies in the southeastern part of Mare Imbrium and is approximately 27km in diameter with the rim approximately 400 metres about the surrounding area. The mountains are the Mons Ampere range, some of which reach height of approximately 3000 metres and are thought to have formed about 3.5 billion years ago.

Ptolemaeus & Alphonsus

Ptolemaeus & Alphonsus

Ptolemaeus is the largest crater in the above image at approximately 150km in diameter and forms a lovely trio with Alphonsus centre and Arzachel bottom. Ptolemaeus is believed to have formed about 4 billion years ago and has a very flat lava filled floor with a single prominent craterlet Ammonius to the North East which itself is some 9km in diameter. Alphonsus is slightly smaller at 118km diameter and has a prominent central mountain caused by uplift that followed the impact at time of formation about 3.85 billion years ago. The steep perimeter walls rise to some 800m.

Plato & Montes Alpes

Plato & Montes Alpes

Plato is the large crater to the West lying in part shadow of the terminator. Plato is some 100km in diameter named after the 5th century BC greek Philosopher. The Lunar Alpes mountain region is also accentuated by the shadow and some of the peaks in this range extend to a height of 3600 metres. The Vallis Alpes is an immense 166 km long by 10km wide rille or lunar valley running South-West North-East with raised cliffs on each side with a flat lava filled surface.