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


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):


Credit: Nasa