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

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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

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

 

Supernova

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.

The Eskimo Nebula

Object NGC 2392 or Caldwell 39 is known as the Eskimo Nebula (nicknamed for its slight resemblance to someone wearing a parka) and is a double shell planetary nebula that was discovered by William Herschel in 1787 from Slough.

This object is around 3000 light years away in the constellation of Gemini. A planetary nebula a is somewhat misleading description as it is actually a medium sized star, not dis-similar to our Sun which is in the process of shedding its outer layers of gas as it starts to run out of fuel towards the end of its life. In this case the central star is a highly luminous dwarf type star of about 40,000K in temperature.

The strong radiation from the star excites the outer layers of the shell nebula of doubly ionized oxygen. These outer shell layers are expanding at a rate in the order of 100km/second and are currently about one light year in diameter. This is one of the youngest nearby planetary nebula’s known and is thought to have formed lest than 10,000 years ago.

Low resolution image below obtained from home in London on Thursday evening 13.02.14:

Eskimo Nebula crop 2014.02.13

High resolution Hubble/Chandra image for comparison (combined X-ray and visible light image):

ngc2392_hubblechandra_3600

Credit: Nasa

 

 

Sunday observing session between the clouds

Results of a very brief observing session this evening between tea and the clouds rolling in here in London.

More magnification than last week with a larger telescope and also using a UHC filter to improve contrast.

First up is M42 The Great Orion Nebula, the nearest star forming region with reflection, emission and dark nebula all evident.

Orion Nebula M42 -2014.02.09

Next up is M82 in Ursa Major with supernova 2014. M82 is a starburst galaxy 12 million light years away in Ursa Major (The Plough). The 2014 type 1a supernova can be clearly seen in the upper side of the galaxy. M82 is apparently 5 times more luminous than the Milky Way.

M82 with supernova 2014 -- 2014.02.09

Next is an edge on spiral galaxy in the Lynx constellation called NGC 2683. Just visible as a slender fuzzy strip but with a particularly bright core. Discovered by William Herschel in 1788, and often referred to as the UFO galaxy it is located about 20million light years away and receding from us at about 400km/second.

NGC2683 Edgte on spiral galaxy in Lynx 2014.02.09

Lastly but not particularly visually impressive but rewarding to find none the less is the globular cluster called NGC 2419, the ‘Intergalactic Wanderer’, again in the Lynx constellation (the fuzzy grey blob in the centre of the image below). This object is a gravitationally bound group of up to 1 million stars that orbits the Milky way at a great distance of some 300,000 light years and is one of the most distant globular clusters in our galaxy. It orbits the centre of the galaxy only once every 3 billion years or so. It was also discovered by William Herschel in 1788.

NGC 2419 Globular cluster - Intergalactic wanderer in Lynx 2014.02.09