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



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.

Sunday in the Solar System

A couple of images from a brief observing session on Sunday 09th March.

First up is Jupiter which is high in the sky at the moment. Early evening 18:30-19:00.

The moon Io can be seen to the upper left and its shadow can be seen transiting across the face of the planet. The great red spot can also be seen.

Jupiter with IO in transit and GRS F20 - 090314 - 18

Next stop the Moon – The area below is in the southeast corner of Mare Nubium – Just below centre right is a neat little triple crater formation called Thebit , Thebit A lies across the rim of this crater and the rim of Thebit A is overlain in turn by the even smaller Thebit L. The largest of these little craters is just under 60km wide and 3km deep. Adjacent, to the left is is a 110-kilometer-long rille named Rupes Recta,  more commonly known as the Straight Wall which rises to a height 240 metres.

Moon - Thebit - 09.03

Bank holiday weekend astronomy antics

The Sun - 25th May

A glimpse of the Sun on last Saturday morning, between the breaks in the cloud.

SOHO image mdi_sunspots

SOHO image of the Sun for comparison. Credit: NASA

Close up of sunspot 1756 - 2 - 26 May 10 - cropped

Close up of sunspot 1756, image obtained on Sunday 26th at 10:45. The main sunspot top right is similar in size as the Earth.

Looking at the large sunspot, a ‘light bridge’ can be made out on the LHS extending into the much darker central umbra, the width of the light bridge suggests that the sunspot is mature and on the downward phase in its life cycle.

Also, filaments can just be seen in the lighter pre-umbra surrounding the core of the sunspot. The filaments are magnetic in nature and radiate out from centre.

M57 – The Ring Nebula 

On the Sunday night, the skies remained clear and I was able to take the opportunity to do some observing with a new Mallincam astronomy video camera.

The shot below is my first attempt using this set up with the 200mm SCT telescope. This is a stack of about 10no single video stills each about 6-10 seconds in exposure length. The target is the ring nebula or Messier 57.

M57 - The Ring Nebula

M57 – The Ring Nebula

M57 is a planetary nebula in the constellation of Lyra, near the bright star of Vega and is currently visible to the south in a modest telescope.

The Ring Nebula is a shell of ionised gas which has been shed from a dying star originally similar in size to the Sun as it went through its red giant stage before turning into a white dwarf, which can just be made out in the centre of the image below.

The Ring Nebula is about 1 .3 light-years in diameter and is some 2300 light years away from us.

The blue green tinge is due to the presence of doubly ionised oxygen, whilst the outer red tinge is due to the presence of hydrogen.

The white dwarf at the centre is actually 200 times more luminous that our Sun and is made of primarily carbon and oxygen.


M57 location. Credit: Wikipedia

Below for comparison, is a Hubble Space Telescope image of the Ring Nebula


Credit: NASA