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 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 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 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.
For comparison a Hubble image of M51 can be seen below: