Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Galaxy and the Cluster

Our chance placement in the cosmos makes it seem like the star cluster, NGC 6939, is right next to the nearby spiral galaxy, NGC 6946. The galaxy is in actuality, much further away. It does make a pretty picture though. I shot this using my Canon 300D and my Meade SN-10 telescope. It is made of a stack of 6 three-minute images at 1600 ISO. The spiral galaxy is also known as the Fireworks Galaxy, and a large number (8) of Supernova explosions have been recorded within it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Eastern Veil

This is an image of a portion of the Eastern Veil Nebula. I shot it with my DSLR. It is one of the left-over shock-waves from when a star exploded many millenniums ago.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is a vast interstellar star nursery. The clouds of gas coalesce to form the stars we see in the sky. This nebula is the closest and brightest of all the nebulas. It can clearly be seen with the naked eye, as a fuzzy patch in the area of the sword on Orion's belt (the constellation). This "hourglass" shaped constellation is a familiar sight for the Northern hemisphere during late fall and winter. This photo actually contains several objects in this vast deep sky complex. You can see NGC 1977 to the far left, and both M42 and M43. The Trapezium, the bright spot in the middle, is composed of 4-5 stars through most scopes. The Outer Loop is also visible encircling the large nebula..

I shot this with my 100mm F6 Refractor and my Canon 300D DSLR.

Horsehead and Flame

Here is my first image of the Horsehead for the season. Weather was conspiring against me and I didn't get as many exposures as I originally intended. Not the greatest, I will have to re-shoot this.

Shot with my Orion 100mm F6 refractor and Canon 300D DSLR.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Final Comet Holmes?

Comet Holmes is definitely changing in appearance. It is larger than the sun from last word, and has become a very noticeable naked eye blob in the northern sky. It had a pretty dramatic start, and it's appearance changed almost nightly. This comet has been the astronomical equivalent of a cliffhanger novel, with a surprise in store each night. At least that is how the early days of this apparition were. The comet has now evened itself out fairly well, and is remaining largely unchanged. It still remains a great target, but unless something truly exceptional happens, I don't think I will image it much more.

Oh well, maybe one more wide-field if it crosses something interesting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Little Dumb Bell

This is the Little Dumb Bell Nebula, named for it's resemblance to the larger Dumb Bell Nebula in a different region of the sky. It is a planetary nebula, and is basically a dying star throwing off it's shells of gas prior to burning out. This will not happen anytime soon, as galactic time is VERY slow compared to what we experience, so we get to enjoy it as pretty scenery for quite a while longer.

Crab Nebula

I really like Black and White images. I think there is a drama to them missing from many color images. Here is a monochrome version of the Crab Nebula photo I shot several weeks ago. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Silver Coin Galaxy

I took this image of NGC 253 a few nights ago. This galaxy is a very large galaxy in the constellation of Sculptor. It has had several Supernovas detected in it in the past. I should have taken more images, but it was windy and hard to get anything at all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Holmes in Detail

This image shows a close-up of Comet Holmes. You can clearly see the nucleus and a jet coming off it leading to the much dimmer tail which is not visible in this photo. You can also see some detail where the front of the gas halo is being impacted by the solar wind and is forming a type of Bow Shock.

A false color view is shown below...

Another View of Comet Holmes...

Comet Holmes is passing through the constellation Perseus in this image. You can faintly see the gas halo and blue ion tail. The tail has been disturbed by the solar wind, and has a large gap shortly behind the head (coma).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Crab Nebula

This is the Crab Nebula. It is a large star that exploded and we are seeing the resulting shell of gas expand away from it. The explosion occured in the 9th century AD, being recorded by Chinese astronomers and a few others. At it's center lies the first known Pulsar, an spinning neutron star that only emits it's light from the polar regions. It blinks on and off as it spins. This star spins so fast, it flashes in milliseconds.

I imaged this with my smaller Mak-Cassegrain scope using Cyan-Magenta-Yellow filters.

Rose is a Rose

I snapped this quick image of the Rosette Nebula with my Guidescope while waiting on another target to rise. Turned out pretty well for such a short exposure. The Rosette is a star forming region where the stars have aged a bit and are blowing away the nebula with their solar winds. You can see the cleared away towards the center with a cluster of stars in the middle. There are still Bok Globules present (the dark spots) which are globs of matter coalescing into stars.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Holmes Beginning to Show a Tail!

As this comet slowly turns around the sun, it's tail will become more prominent. The blue area to the upper right of the comet's disk is the beginnings of a tail. The green area is a cloud of gas surrounding the entire comet. I tried to capture what little tail may be visible through a series of long exposures (4 min) with my DSLR and biggest scope.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eastern Veil Close-up

Here is a close-up of the Eastern Veil Nebula, as imaged in the post below. I was really hoping to get more images when I shot this photo, but the wind did not cooperate and I had to cut-it short.

Eastern Veil Nebula

The Eastern Veil Nebula is a portion of the overall Cygnus Veil Complex. It was formed many thousands of years ago when a star exploded, or went "supernova" as it is known. The Eastern Veil is not photographed as often other portions, like the "Witch's Broom" region, and is considerably harder to see visually. A dark sky, large scope, and some type of OIII filter is normally needed to see it with your eyes. The Witch's Broom region lies out of the frame at the bottom of the image.

Andromeda Wide-Field

This wide-field image of the nearby Andromeda Galaxy (M31) was taken with my Canon DSLR and a 200mm telephoto lens. It clearly shows the dust lanes, and two satellite galaxies in orbit around the bigger Andromeda Galaxy. The obvious small galaxy (M110) is visible to the upper left of Andromeda. The smaller one is the bright yellowish glob directly to the right of the nucleus, with a bright bluish star close by, on the edge of the galactic disk. Our Galaxy has two similar galaxies in orbit, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. They are not visible in the Northern Hemisphere, you will have to take a trip down south to see them.

Spiral Galaxy M74

Here is the Spiral Galaxy M74, showing off it's classic spiral structure. I shot this using an older CCD, the SAC 8 II, that I like to use due to it's extremely sensitive chip. This is a composite of 90 eight to twenty second images stacked. Anything longer than that and the CCD was so saturated nothing could be seen of the galaxy. That is how stupid sensitive this camera is. I could have stretched the image a bit more to bring out some more detail, but it looked good so I just left it.

Pelican and North American Nebula Region

I took this image with my DSLR and a 200mm telephoto lens piggybacked on my big scope. It is a composite of 3 three minute images. It shows the Pelican Nebula region with portions of the North America Nebula visible at the top of the photo. These regions lie in part of the Milky Way, and are large clouds of gas seen as we gaze back upon our own galaxy towards the center.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Comet 17P Holmes...

This close-up image of the nucleus of comet 17P Holmes shows a bright coma region and the outer dust shell surrounding this unusual comet. It was taken with my large Schmidt-Newtonian scope. The dust shell has grown slightly in size since my first image shown below.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Comet Eruption!

Here is an image of comet 17P Holmes. This comet suddenly erupted from magnitude 17 to magnitude 2.5 over the last few days. It is now so bright it can be seen with the naked eye in a moonlit night. It has a very strange appearance because it is seen nearly head on to us, and the tail is not visible.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dark Nebulae in Cygnus

This image shows a couple of unidentified dark nebulae in the constellation of Cygnus. The large clouds of gas obscure the stars behind them and appear as a dark spot or hole in the star field. They are simply a large dark cloud that the light cannot shine through or illuminate.

Double Cluster

The Double Cluster is a naked eye cluster located in the outskirts of the constellation Perseus. It is composed of two open star clusters appearing to be very near one another. It is considered to be one of the more spectacular objects to be seen visually, especially with a rich field telescope.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

M27 Re-done...

While I was shooting the Helix, I decided to re-shoot the Dumbbell Nebula. Here it is in all its glory as imaged through my 10" scope using my DSI Pro and CMY filters.

Helix Nebula

This large planetary nebula is known as the Helix Nebula. It is very large (as big as the full moon), but is notoriously difficult to see without a very wide-field scope. It is so large, because it is the closest object of this type to the earth. It remains dim to our eyes, because the light is spread out over a larger area than the typical planetary nebula, in turn lowering the surface brightness. If it were farther away, the light would be more concentrated, and we would see it a bit easier.

This nebula is composed of gas and dust thrown off by a dying star. It is called the Helix because high detail images show two shells of gas resembling a vague helix shape. It is assumed the two shells were created by perturbations in the orbit of the star caused by an unseen companion.

I shot this image using my Canon 300D DSLR and my 10" Schmidt-Newtonian telescope.

Seven Sisters

The Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters as it is more commonly known form a very interesting star cluster in the fall night sky. It is a naked eye cluster composed of 7-9 bright blue stars, surrounded by a faint cloud of reflective dust. The whole affect is quite impressive in a wide field telescope or binoculars. It takes a scope of about 10" and a very dark night to even attempt to see the dust cloud surrounding these stars. It is captured fairly well in the above photo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Swan

M17 is also known as the Swan Nebula. I imaged this with my Canon 300D digital camera. It is a large star forming region in the area of Sagittarius, very near the Eagle Nebula.

Barnard's Galaxy

I tried to image Barnard's Galaxy in a strong breeze a few nights ago. I only managed a few shots. Here is the result.

Barnard's Galaxy is a very small member of our local group of galaxies. It is obscured by lot's of gas and dust near our galaxy's center, making it very hard to see.

NGC 7331 and Company

I took this little shot of the spiral galaxy NGC 7331 using my DSI Pro guider and my CMY filters.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Pinwheel Galaxy

This galaxy is known as the Pinwheel Galaxy due to it's general "pinwheel" shape. It is located in Ursa Major and is quite easy to see using a good pair of binoculars. It is listed in the Arp Catalogue of Peculiar Galaxies because of it's lop-sided arm.

Great Andromeda!

M31, or the Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest large spiral galaxy to our own. In fact, it is believed that our galaxy and this galaxy will collide in the near future (several thousand years from now). Don't worry, none of us will be around to see it. Our Milky Way galaxy is a similar shaped spiral, but scientists believe it to have a barred structure with more arms. The small elliptical galaxy M110 is visible in the lower right.

The Crescent

This strange and difficult to find nebula in the constellation Cygnus, is highly unusual in many ways. It was formed in a manner similar to that which formed most planetary nebulas, but only a little different. The brighter star towards the center is what is known as a Wolf-Rayette star. There are fewer than 150 of these stars known. These stars are young hot supergiants that continually blow off their gaseous mass in a form of continual Nova. The reasons behind this are not totally known, as most stars do this sort of thing towards the end of their existence.

The Eagle

M16 or the Eagle Nebula is a large cloud of gas and dust that lies in the general region of the sky near the Trifid and Lagoon Nebulas. It is very similar in many respects to the Lagoon Nebula, being another region forming stars. However, the solar winds of these stars have blown the dust into a shape resembling an eagle. The combination of Nebula and cluster is very striking visually in a telescope.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

M27 in CMYK

Here is a new image of Messier 27, done with my new set of Edmund dichroic cyan, magenta, and yellow imaging filters. An alternative to the traditional red, green, blue method, the CMY method has the advantage of allowing more than one color channel through the filter at once making imaging time less critical. At least, that is what it is touted for. This is my first CMY image, and it does appear to do just that. With the old RGB filters, it seemed all I could ever get was red/blue and the green channel was notoriously difficult to get signal with. There are very few, if any, green objects in space, so it would seem that the green color channel is a waste of exposure in many cases. The Cyan filter has both green and blue in its spectral wavelentghs, and in fact pulls in the entire OIII spectral line, which is missed by the old RGB method as this line lies between the blue and green filters.

These filters can be obtained from Edmund Optics and run about $68 dollars a set unmounted.

Yes, they are parfocal! However, I do not believe they block IR.
This image was done using my DSI Pro CCD that I normally use for guiding.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Veil

This is a picture of a portion of the Veil Nebula, a large supernova remnant located near the constellation Cygnus. This object was created when a massive star exploded millions of years past, and threw off large quantities of gases, "star stuff", and shock waves. There are several portions of this visible in the sky, and they all form a roughly circular ring in the lower half of Cygnus. They cover too large an area to take all of them in, unless using a very wide field camera lens for your photo.

These interstellar shock waves will dissipate in several million years as they expand.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Cocoon

Here is an image of Caldwell 19, the Cocoon Nebula. It is a large cloud of gas and dust superimposed over a dark nebula. The long, dark division among the stars is a black cloud of obscuring dust blocking out the stars behind. This nebula is quite dim, and is very hard to see with the eyes, even through a large telescope.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pinwheel Galaxy

I shot this image of M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy several months back, but never got around to processing it. It is finally finished, but not as good an image as I had hoped. This is a quite large galaxy visible in the "Big Dipper" constellation. It has one spiral arm that has been disturbed and thrown "off kilter" by something in its past. I shot this on my smaller 5" Maksutov Cassegrain scope with an older SAC 8 II CCD camera.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dumbell Close up

Here is a close up image of Messier 27, the Dumbell Nebula, as seen in an earlier post. This image was taken with a monochrome CCD camera using a special color filters to give color to the black and white image. The object is shown here in the combined light from Oxygen III, and Red. Oxygen III, or OIII is the wavelength of light given off by interstellar ionized Oxygen. A special filter was used to separate it out from the normal visible light spectrum. The light normally given off by M27 lies in the red and OIII regions.

*Warning - Technical stuff*
Light from interstellar objects comes in three flavors. It is Red from Hydrogen Alpha (HA) gas, Blue from cooler Hydrogen Beta (HB) gas, and Teal/Green from ionized Oxygen (OIII). These three color sources make up the Red/Green/Blue light our eye registers when looking at these types of objects.
Normally the cooler Hydrogen Beta is found in mostly the same places you will find Oxygen (OIII), so you can use the data from OIII and double it to serve as green and blue for the color separation process, and get a result close to the original. This is the basis of the Two Filter - Three Color process in use in this image. The Green and Blue channels are composed of OIII light, and the Red channel is from Red light. I did it this way because I was not satisfied with my Green and Blue filters and did not yet own a Hydrogen Alpha filter.
It seemed to work out OK. Sometimes Rocket Science really isn't Rocket Science.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Whirlpool in the Sky

This object is Messier 51, otherwise known as the Whirpool Galaxy. It is a pair of interacting galaxies that very much resemble their name, a whirlpool. The smaller galaxy is actually behind the larger one, and there is some speculation as to whether they are truly interactive or not. A small number of scientists think they are just in the same line of sight, and not truly interactive.

Bode's Galaxy

Messier 81 also known as Bode's Galaxy, is shown here with its smaller companion galaxy, Messier 82. Messier 82 is very interesting in the fact that it is in the throes of a violent explosion. Large streamers and filaments can be seen streaming from it in Hydrogen Alpha light. This picture was done in normal visible light, so they are not as prominent, but still can be seen. It is one of the great mysteries of science as to why this galaxy is exploding. The current theory has it resulting from a close pass from the larger spiral, M81.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dumbell in the Sky

Here is a little image of Messier 27, known as the Dumbell Nebula for it's shape in early film photos. This is a shell of gas being thrown off by a dying star. If you look closely, you can see the star in the center of the shell. Eventually, this shell will dissipate and the star will become a burned out cinder.

A View of the Lagoon...

This is the Lagoon Nebula, aka Messier 8, a large star forming region located near the Trifid Nebula. This nebula is easily visible to the naked eye in a dark sky, near the constellation of Sagittarius. Our Sun was formed in a cloud such as this, that has long since dissipated.

Trifid on a Whim!

I took this image with my Canon DSLR through my big telescope, a 10" Schmidt-Newtonian. I was actually adjusting my autoguider and decided to shoot a few images of this object as a test. It turned out so well I kept it.

The Trifid Nebula, otherwise known as Messier 8, is a region located in the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way. It is a region of young stars formed in the glowing cloud. An open cluster, M21 is located below and to the left.

Eye of the Raven - The Background...

I have set this Blog site up to highlight my endeavors in the field of Astrophotography, and maybe educate a few people in the process. True science these days is becoming hard to find, as special interests slant research more and more. The only science that appears to be unaffected is that of cosmology and astronomy. The general public simply does not know enough about it, or it does not affect them in anyway for them to care about it. I hope to help change these attitudes, and maybe spur a few others to explore the wonders of the natural world.