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



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!