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


January Deep Sky Bonanza

A selection of video captures from recent astronomy antics.

Eskimo Nebula NGC2392 – A Lovely green planetary nebula in the Constellation of Gemini. A medium sized star which is shedding outer layers of gas as it nears the end of its life.

Eskimo Nebula - NGC 2392 - 24.01.15

Eskimo Nebula – NGC 2392 – 24.01.15

Another shot of Hubble’s variable nebula, see last weeks post for details.

Hubble's Variable Nebula 24.01

The Flame Nebula NGC 2024 – Clouds of Hydrogen gas illuminated by high energy Ultra Violet light from  nearby star Alintak (out of view), the east star in the belt of Orion.

The Flame Nebula NGC 2024

The Flame Nebula NGC 2024

The Horsehead Nebula IC 434, again in Orion. This was taken with a 72mm refractor telescope with a narrow band HA filter to cut out some of light pollution. It is a stack of several 30 second frames.

The Horsehead Nebula IC 434

The Horsehead Nebula IC 434

Bodes Galaxy M81 in Ursa Major, named after Johann Bode who discovered it in 1774. M81 is 12 million Light Years away. The largest member in a cluster of 33 interacting galaxies known as the M81 group. The centre of the galaxy harbours a 70 million solar mass Black Hole! Hard to see but can you make out a spiral arm?

Bodes Galaxy M81

Bodes Galaxy M81

M82 – Again in Ursa Major, a star burst galaxy and in a gravitational tryst with M82 above along with 32 other galaxies in the M81 group . Apparently 5 times more luminous than the Milky Way. Rapid star formation in the last 100million years or so is attributable to the gravitational influence of nearby M81.



The Whirlpool Galaxy M51, Canes Venatici – A face on spiral galaxy discovered by Charles Messier in 1773. Currently interacting with companion galaxy NGC5195. The first to be classified as a Spiral Galaxy. Some 25 Million Light Years away, M51 is approximately 60,000 Light Years across.

M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

The Leo Triplet – Three interacting galaxies located in the Constellation of Leo. Some 35 Million Light Years distant.

The Leo Triplet

The Leo Triplet

For comparison, below is an image from the European Southern observatory of the Leo Triplet:

Leo Triplet. Credit: ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM

Leo Triplet. Credit:

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


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.

Today’s Sun

The Sun 05th May 2013

The Sun 05th May 2013

sun0004 13-05-05 09-28-53 - cropped 2

The two images of the Sun above were taken this morning between 10-11am from home in London. As before, these were obtained using a 72mm refractor and a white light ‘Herschel’ wedge. They were both aquired by recording a short movie clip (about 1 minute long) using an Imaging Source astronomy camera and then stacked and processed in Registax software.

The key regions of sunspot activity can be compared & referenced with the SOHO Solar and Heliospheric Observatory white light image below as well as the more dramatic image at 310 Angstrom / Extreme Ultraviolet image at the bottom. This reveals far more activity and much higher temperatures than can be seen in the white light images. Indeed the brightest areas are in the region of between 60 80,000K in the 310 Angstrom image below.

Also of interest, Sunspot region 1731, studied & posted in last weekend’s blog entry has now travelled across of the face of the Sun from east to west and now resides as a lighter patch of faculae on the upper western limb and although apparently diminished at whitelight wavelength can be seen as a very bright / hot patch in the 310 Angstrom image below.

SOHO Imaage of the Sun 05th May 2013

Image Credit: NASA/SOHO

SOHO image taken at 310 Angstrom wavelength

SOHO image taken at 310 Angstrom wavelength

Image Credit: NASA/SOHO