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


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



Close up of the supernova SN 2014J in star burst galaxy M82 in the constellation of Ursa Major.

The Type 1a supernova is the bright star like object just above the centre of the galaxy. A Type 1a supernova occurs in a binary star system when one of the stars is a white dwarf which accretes material from its companion until it exceeds a certain size and then explodes.

Type 1a supernova are used as standard candles because they all reach a certain specific peak luminosity and can therefore be used to determine the distance to remote galaxies.

It is the closest Type 1a supernova to be discovered in 42 years and was discovered by chance by students from UCL in London in mid January. Since its discovery it has been the subject of extensive follow-up observation by astronomers around the world.

Apparently the supernova is now starting to fade away.

M82 with Supernova 2014 Ursa Major - 2014.02.13

M81 Bode’s Galaxy  below, also in Ursa Major, a ‘grand design’ spiral galaxy, not far from M82. Discovered by Johann Bode in 1774.

M81 Bodes Galaxy Ursa Major 2014.02.13

B0th M81 and M82 are approximately 12 million light years away and are interacting with one another though their gravitational attraction. This is causing interstellar hydrogen to fall into the core of M82resulting in vigorous star formation.

Both galaxies are part of the Virgo super-cluster of galaxies.

The core of  Bode’s Galaxy harbours a supermassive black hole  equivalent to 70 million times the mass of our Sun.

Both images taken at home in London on 13th February using a 200mm telescope and a high sensitivity video camera.

Bright young stars – NGC 2547


Credit: ESO

A lovely image from the 2.2 m telescope at La Silla observatory in Chile of the bright star cluster NGC 2547 which resides in the southern constellation of Vela.

The open cluster of bright young stars which are blue in colour are estimated to be between 20-35 million years old, very young in comparison to our Sun for example which is 4.6 billion years old.

The open star cluster is some about 1500 light years away.

However if you click on the image and give it closer inspection, many more distant objects and galaxies can be seen behind the star cluster, located along the same line of sight but many millions of light years further away.

For more information follow the ESO link below:

ESO – eso1316 – Young, Hot and Blue.

Planck Mission – Latest results

CMB 735683main_pia16873-full_full

Image credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

The Planck mission studies and maps the earliest light in the Universe called Cosmic Microwave Background to the greatest precision yet. The CMB originates from when the universe was a mere 370,000 years old. The image produced shows minute temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities. These tiny variations in density (anisotropies) are the seeds of structure in the Universe which have since evolved, through the force of gravity, into all the galaxies and stars that we see today.

Key findings include:

  • age of the universe now 13.8billion years, 100 million years older than previously thought
  • universe is not expanding as fast as previously thought
  • less dark energy present but more dark matter and normal matter
Ingredients of the Universe

Ingredients of the Universe

Credit: NASA

Interested … read more follow this link:

Hubble spots the farthest known galaxy from Earth – MACS0647-JD

PIA16465-Most distant galaxy spotted - 1


Images taken in October / November 2011 from the Hubble Space Telescope and the CLASH programme (Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble).

The CLASH used multi-wavelength techniques to image the most distant galaxy by means of a cosmic telescope known as Gravitational Lensing. This is where the light from distant objects is magnified by the gravity from a massive foreground object and is therefore a very useful tool for studying very distant objects.

In this instance the gravitational mass from the bright yellow cluster of galaxies MACS J0647 magnifies the light from the more distant galaxy MACS0647-JD.

In the enlarged image below the tiny dwarf galaxy MACS0647-JD can be seen, at a redshift of Z=10.7, over 13.3 billion light years away / only 420 million years after the big bang.

PIA16465_fig1-most distant galaxy spotted 2


Galactic centre – Stars orbiting super massive black hole


Credit: Keck/UCLA Galactic Centre Group

Click on image above to see stars in the centre of our Milky Way galaxy orbit a suspected supermassive black hole at its core.

The animation tracks the position of a number of stars which have been observed between 1995 and 2011. In this time, it can be seen that star SO-02 for example has completed a full orbit of the suspected black hole and therefore only has an orbital period of just under 16 years.

The stars have elliptical orbits and follow the Keplerian law of planetary motion which allows the mass of the super massive black hole (shown as a white star in the animation) to be determined. This has since been calculated at 4 million times the mass of our Sun.


Credit: ESO/S. Gillessen et al.

The same region of the very central parts of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, this time as observed in the near-infrared with the NACO instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope located in the Atacama desert in Chile.