ETA Carina Nebula

•November 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Another spectacular object in the southern sky is the Eta Carina nebula in the constellation Carina. It is a vast complex region of light and dark nebulosity located approximately 8,500 lightyears from Earth. The Carina nebula is brighter and four times as large as the well-known Orion nebula but is less known due to it’s location in the southern sky. It is so far south that for times during the southern hemisphere winter it barely rises above the horizon.

The star Eta Carinae is highly luminous “hypergiant” star, with an estimated mass of 100-150 times that of the Sun and luminosity about four million times that of the Sun. This star is one of the major sources of illumination of the nebula, although not the only one. There are small clusters of stars and other features scattered throughout the region.

This image was captured using a remote telescope through the web site telescope.live and filtered for Hydrogen Alpha, Sulphur II, and Oxygen III emissions. I accessed the raw files from the site’s archives and processed the color image. I combined the filtered grayscale images to create the false color image.

North American Nebula

•November 18, 2020 • Leave a Comment


Passing nearly directly overhead in November is the North America Nebula, a vast cloud of ionized hydrogen gas and dust near Deneb, the star that represents the tail of Cygnus, the Swan. The reason for the name is that the shape of the cloud resembles the outline of the North American continent.

The nebula is determined to be about 2,200 light years from Earth and covers an area of sky more than the area of ten times at of the full moon.

This image was captured with the Takahashi 106mm refractor in the IC Astronomy Observatory in Spain. The object was exposed through three filters that narrowly passed Hydrogen Alpha, Sulphur 3, and Oxygen 2 emissions. I processed the raw files to approximate the so-called Hubble pallette. The telescope is operated by the web site Telescope.live.

Horsehead Nebula

•November 11, 2020 • Comments Off on Horsehead Nebula

One of the fascinating objects in the sky is the Horsehead Nebula, a swirling cloud of gas and dust that obscures the stars behind it. The nebula is located in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex where star formation is taking place.

First recorded by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming on a photgraphic plate taken at Harvard College, E.E. Barnard wrote and early description of the nebula and catalogued it as Barnard 33. An interesting history of the Horsehead Nebula was published in Astronomy magazine last month (October, 2020).

This image was captured remotely using the 24-inch (61cm) operated by the Telescope.live web site at the El Sauce Observatory in the Rio Hurtado Valley in Chile. The image was processed in Pixinsight and Photoshop. The original images consist of four grayscale files captured with luminance (clear), red, green, and blue filters. The grayscale images were combined in Pixinsight to create the color image. Photoshop was used for some noise reduction and to make some minor tweaks and slight crop from the original. The field of view is approximately 30 arc seconds square.

 

 

 

 

Brocchi’s Cluster

•November 1, 2020 • Comments Off on Brocchi’s Cluster

Back in July, I described my beginning efforts to capture the night sky and how I “discovered” this interesting formation of stars in a wide field image taken with my camera. It has gotten to the point where if this is in the field of any image, it jumps right out at me.

But in wide field images, it is a very small object and I wanted a better photo of it. So utilizing the Takahashi 106mm Imaging Platform at the iTelescope.net New Mexico Skies Observatory in Mayhill, NM, I captured this close-up.

The bright formation, referred to as an “asterism”, is superimposed over a background starfield of thousands of distant stars.

The main bright stars of the cluster, also known as “The Coathanger” are mostly luminous blue stars with a couple of red “giants” to fill it out. Conflicting studies over the years have tried to determine this was a true cluster or just a chance alignment of stars. The most recent studies have concluded that it is the latter, based on parallax and proper motion measurements from the Hipparcos satellite.

For more information visit “Brocchi’s Cluster” on Wikipedia.

The “Seven Sisters”

•October 27, 2020 • Comments Off on The “Seven Sisters”

Rising in the east this time of year (October-November) is a hazy area that upon closer examination, if you have excellent eyesight and a good clear atmosphere, is small star cluster dominated by hot, luminous, blue stars formed within the last 75 to 150 million years. That is to say, these stars are, in astronomical time, relatively “young”.

This is the Pleiades cluster otherwise known as the “Seven Sisters”. It apparently got the name because an observer in ancient times could see seven distinct stars, even without any optical aid. It is a challenge to see all seven. The Pleiades are a lovely sight in binoculars or a low power telescope.

Overall, there are over 1,000 members of the cluster, which is The observed nebulosity is due to dust, which is likely an area of dust through which the cluster is moving, rather than the dust being left over form the formation of the stars.

This image was captured through the iTelescope.net web site using the Takahashi 106mm Imaging Platform at the New Mexico Skies Observatory in Mayhill, NM.

Tarantula Nebula in the LMC

•October 26, 2020 • Comments Off on Tarantula Nebula in the LMC

160,000 light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud is the Tarantula Nebula, which is a vast cloud of gas and dust that is a massive start factory.

It shines a about magnitude 8 and it is the most active star forming region known in the local group of galaxies. The diameter has been estimated between 65,000 and 1,900,000 light years. The nebula and the embedded cluster has an estimated mass of 450,000 times the the sun, suggesting it may eventually develop into a globular cluster of stars.

I captured the image with the 50cm reflector in the El Sauce Observatory situated in the Rio Hurtado valley, Chile , operated by the telescope.live web site. The colors are generated by using narrow band hydrogen alpha, sulphur III, and Oxygen II filtration and processed to the so-called “Hubble pallete”. Each filter was used for four five-minute exposures each for a total of 60 minutes. The image was processed with Pixinsight and Photoshop.

 

The “Silver Coin” Galaxy in Sculptor

•October 4, 2020 • Comments Off on The “Silver Coin” Galaxy in Sculptor

Designated NGC-253, this galaxy is is located at the center of the Sculptor Group in the Sculptor constellation, one of the nearest groups of galaxies to the Milky Way. It is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky even though it has been calculated to be more than 11 million light-years from us. The Sculptor Galaxy can be seen with binoculars and it is considered one of the easiest galaxies to view after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), although it is 25 degrees south of the equator so it is seen best from the southern hemisphere.

It is known to have a higher than average amount of star formation going on, which is probably supported by a great amount of dust circulating that can be seen in the image.

This image was captured remotely using a telescope at the El Sauce Observatory in Chile through the telescope.live web site.

With my travels being severely restricted due to the coronavirus situation, I have found one satisfying way to pursue photography, even if I have to control the camera remotely.

Southern Neighbor Galaxy: The Large Magellanic Cloud

•September 27, 2020 • Comments Off on Southern Neighbor Galaxy: The Large Magellanic Cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud is a great cloud of stars in the southern sky, which is named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who wrote about it in his journals. I had the thought recently, after reading about the Large Magellanic Cloud, that Ferdinand and his crew must looked at this this mysterious cloud that spanned the space of more than 21 full moons with a great sense of wonder.

Living in the Northern Hemisphere, we miss some of the most spectacular views of the sky. So when I had the opportunity to capture an image using a the iTelescope.net telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, I selected a wide view of the cloud. The LMC is considered a “barred spiral” galaxy although from our view it is difficult to see these characteristics. The observatory in Australia is associated with the iTelescope.net.

The distance to the LMC has been calculatedĀ  to be about 163,000 light years. Its relative closeness has given astronomers many opportunities to study the similarities to and differences from conditions within our own Milky Way. The New General Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars lists dozens of objects within the LMC. Just the idea that there are distinct objects in another galaxy that are observable is amazing.

Probably the most prominent object is the Tarantula Nebula (NGC 2070) seen in the upper left in the wide-field image above.

The Tarantula Nebula got its name in the mid-20th Century from the appearance in deep photographic exposures. It’s brightness is remarkable given that its distance is on the order of 160,000 light years. I captured this image with the 17-inch Dall-Kirkham telescope at Slooh’s Santa Martian Observatory in Chile.

Interacting Galaxies: The Whirlpool Galaxy M51

•September 21, 2020 • Comments Off on Interacting Galaxies: The Whirlpool Galaxy M51

Some 23 million light-years distant in the constellation Canes Venatici, the Whirlpool Galaxy presents scientists with a wide range of fascinating data. First, there is the interaction with the smaller companion. The interaction was confirmed by signals received by radio telescopes. More details about this fascinating object are in the Wikipedia.

The image was captured remotely using the 17-inch modified Dall-Kirkham telescope at the Slooh.com observatory in the Canary Islands and process with PixInsight and Photoshop. Coaxing the details out of the noisy originals was quite the challenge.

 

 

First Attempt at Narrowband: “Pillars of Creation”

•September 16, 2020 • Comments Off on First Attempt at Narrowband: “Pillars of Creation”

With the remote access to real qualiity teIescopes, I’ve been wanting to try “narrowband” imaging.

Regular color imaging involves red, green, and blue exposures generally along with a fourth exposure with a luminance (black and white) filter. Narrowband imaging uses filters that pass only specific wavelengths that are emitted by gasses consisting of specific chemicals. The most common combinations are Hydrogen Alpha (Ha), Sulphur 2 (Sii), and Oxygen 3 (Oiii). Capturing the emitted light from these three gasses allows analysis of the makeup of a particular cloud of interstellar gas.

The so-called “Pillars of Creation” became famous due to a stunning image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The filtration and processing of the image provided incredible detail and dimension. Even the 100cm instrument in at the El Sauce Observatory in Chile could not equal the Hubble image, but it provided me with some nice raw images that I could process.

The mixing of the colors was done specifically in the “Hubble Pallet”. It was made easier by having a copy of the Hubble image for comparison. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s pretty close.

 

 
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