Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three for the price of one! M31 M32 and M110 in the same image field

This is an image of M31 with the small, gravitationally-bound elliptical galaxy M110 in the bottom right corner and M32 at the 9 o'clock position.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Four out of five naked-eye planets--Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury 10.19.15

This morning, 4 of the 5 naked eye planets are visible in the pre-dawn sky. Here are the pix that show Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury. Mars is very faint, so click on the pic to enlarge it and zoom in--it is right below (7pm position) Jupiter.  The second pic shows a zoomed in image of Venus, Jupiter and Mars.

Veuus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury
Again--click for full size image and zoom!

Venus, Jupiter, and Mars

Friday, October 16, 2015

Deep in the POD

Here's a pic of the Indiana POD Observatory in action. The right hand screen is a Surface Pro 3 managing camera control and imaging through a USB hub (this is an actual, live image of the Eagle Nebula on the screen). Next to it is an Asus netbook running PhD software which is autoguiding the main scope from the ED-80 mounted piggyback.

Here's a pic of the POD and scope from the outside. The Orion autoguider is in the piggybacked Orion scope and the Mallincam Xtreme is mounted on the main scope.

It's quite astonishing how much room there is in the POD, even with the 14 inch sitting on a space-gobbling tripod. You would not want a school field trip in there, but for one or two observers, it's perfect!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Messier 110

Although the Messier catalog ended at number 103 at the time of Charles Messier's death, objects 104-110 were attributed to him as there is evidence he observed them. Working with a 4 inch telescope mostly from within the city of Paris, the Messier catalog is an outstanding achievement.

M110 is a small, elliptical galaxy that is gravitationally bound to M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy. It is amazing that Messier could even see this small, faint object; it's a tribute to his eyesight and to the excellent sky conditions that must have existed at the end of the 18th century, even in a major city.

This image shows M110 as a faint, elliptical haze close to the center of the image. To the upper left are the huge core and dust lanes of M31.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Spectacular Eagle

I've posted pix of the Eagle Nebula before and last Friday, I decided to take one last look at the Eagle before it moves below my local horizon. I took 4 images on the 14 inch with the Xtreme and stacked them in AstroToaster. The result speaks for itself. There is a little red mis-registration (which, for some reason, was in a couple of the original images), but I'm very pleased with the detail in this pic.

The Eagle is a star nursery. In the so-called "Pillars of Creation," new, hot, young stars are blowing away the nebula and emerging. The light of these stars can be seen illuminating the interior of the nebula and silhouetting other parts.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Messier 33--10.8.15

Here's an image of M33 taken in our light-polluted skies. The 'M' designation is taken from the Messier Catalog, a list of 110 objects (this list contained 103 at the time of Messier's death) that could be mistaken for comets by comet hunters. As a comet hunter himself, these objects were a frustration to Messier, so in 1771, he published a listing of these objects to avoid. He observed them from a hotel in Paris using a small 4 inch telescope.
M33 is a spiral galaxy, sometimes called the Triangulum Galaxy or Pinwheel Galaxy. It seems to be a part of our local group of galaxies, which includes the mighty M31, Andromeda Galaxy. You can just make out the spiral arms of this galaxy in this image.
I'm always amazed when I think of the achievement of Charles Messier, working in Paris with a his inch refractor, M33 was completely invisible in the scope against the skyglow; Messier must have had wonderful dark sky conditions, even in a city like Paris.

Moon-Venus Conjunction this Morning (10.8.15)

The conjunction of Venus and the Moon was a lovely sight this morning against the pink clouds of dawn. I snapped this zoomed in image with my phone this morning as I was gassing up my car.
The word "conjunction" refers to the apparent close proximity of two or more astronomical objects when seen from earth. The Moon and Venus are, of course separated by millions of miles, so this conjunction is just a line-of-sight effect.