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 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

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

Sunday’s deep space adventure

A rare night of reasonably clear skies in London so there was nothing for it but to have a go at some deep sky objects:

A handful of images below show what was to be found – all observed in real time using a small refractor and a video astronomy camera.

First up is M1 the Crab nebula (the fuzzy smudge) which is a supernova remnant in Taurus, the supernova itself was observed as the brightest star in the sky in 1054. In the middle of the nebula is a neutron star 30km across that rotates at 30 times per second.

M1 The crab - supernova remnant

Next up is NGC 2169 which is a lovely open cluster in Orion and is commonly known as the ’37’ cluster for obvious reasons. The image doesn’t do it justice as the stars are a variety of colours when seen with the naked eye.

NGC 2169 - The 37 cluster in Orion

Third is M82 or Cigar galaxy in Ursa Major. This captures the supernova SN2014 which is highlighted and which is currently at its peak magnitude and which will shortly fade away. The SN was discovered by students at UCL a couple of weeks ago and is the closest Supernova to be observed since 1987. M82 resides in UM a mere 12 million light years away.

M82 with supernova SN 2014

And finally the wonderful M42, the Great Orion Nebula, located in the sword of Orion:

M42 The Orion Nebula

Some fitting music….Enjoy!

Ghostly Green Bubble – Planetary nebula IC1295


Credit: ESO

Stunning new image of planetary nebula IC1295 taken by the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

The object, which resembles a ghostly green bubble is actually nothing to do with a planet but is rather the outer layers of atmosphere of a medium sized star, similar in size to our Sun which have been ejected into surrounding space as it starts to die as it runs out of fuel.

The rather dim and dying star that will gradually become a very feint white dwarf can be seen in the centre.

The object is some 3300 light years away int he constellation of Scutum. The green clour is due to the presence of ionised Oxygen.

Check out the video below:

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.