iBlog

INTRODUCTION

Imaging from the worst place on Earth? Possibly!

Welcome to my image blog from Lancashire, UK. Living in Lancashire does make imaging a challenge. Our incessant damp cloudy weather is legendary and coupled with light pollution probably as bright as can be found anywhere (I am 15 miles NW of the centre of Manchester) makes for testing times! Add to that flight path one with constant aeroplanes, which is why it has been suggested as possibly the worst place on Earth for imaging.

But there is some good news. With modern light pollution filters we can still produce excellent results - at least when the clouds clear - but of course it's not easy. It would be so much simpler to log onto a robotic rent-a-scope and let them take the image for us. But if you are up for the challenge and the achievement of taking your own images, with your own equipment, in your own back garden, then I hope the following offers some encouragement. Yes it's difficult but we can do it.

I often shoot the luminance and the colour simultaneously - there are not enough clear spells to allow the luxury of shooting separately. Shooting LRGB with one telescope would take years! So two telescopes and two cameras was the obvious solution . Also necessary is having a dome slot wide enough for both to have a clear line of sight. The luminance is usually taken with the RCOS + Apogee Alta and the colour with the Takahashi + Canon DSLR. Despite their disparate focal lengths this works reasonably well as my current Canon has 4.3 micron pixels (plate scale 2 arcsecs/pixel) and the Apogee 18 micron ones when binned 2x2 (plate scale 1.3 arcsecs/pixel). I find binning essential to maximise signal and improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

The images are all taken from my back garden and appear in order of me processing them - we have plenty of cloudy nights for that. I use a combination of IRIS and Maxim for processing with final tweaks in Photoshop. To get rid of the light pollution takes much trial and error. IRIS scores here with several options but processing often comprises many nights work - certainly always longer than the actual taking. The exception are images taken with an h-alpha filter which is a superb light pollution filter. It also permits imaging with strong Moonlight present - isn't it funny how it always seems to be clear at full Moon!

 

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18th June 2017

The Owl and Hickson 50

 

The Owl Nebula, M97, points the way to several obscure objects. Just above it is a faint galaxy and just below it a faint nebula. A little further to the east (left) in the Hickson Galaxy Cluster HCG50.

HCG50 is the faintest and has the highest redshift of the 100 Hickson groups. The 5 galaxies form a ring and all have redshifts around z=0.14 although with a high velocity dispersion indicating the presence of dark matter. The redshifts indicate a light travel time of around 1.75 billion years.

Although certainly the faintest Hickson group their magnitudes are somewhat disputed. Catalogues place them around mag 18 to 19 but CCD imagers tend to suggest they are around 1 magnitude brighter. Old catalogue values can be blue biased as films were more sensitive to blue wavelengths. The obvious colour of the galaxies in my shot is certainly not blue so it is no surprise their blue mag is faint. CCDs on the other hand are more red sensitive. Either way a big Dobsonian will be needed to see them.

As is often the case with the Hickson groups, there are galaxies around around them and with similar brightnesses and colours. However, the two below (south and south-east in the enlarged image) have much lower redshifts but the double galaxy (upper right) does have a matching redshift so is probably associated.

Image Details

  • Dates: 23rd & 24th March 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 & Takahashi FSQ106
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Luminosity 13 x 20 mins + RGB (Tak) 26 x 10 mins.
hcg50
HCG50

The Owl and HCG50



 

14th May 2017

A Spiral Nebula, Sharpless Sh2-266

 

A very odd nebula and possibly one of the most distant HII regions from the centre of the galaxy. The spiral shape is believed to result from the intense stellar wind from a massive central star known as MW137. Initially thought to be a Herbig-Haro type star it was later found to be a supergiant Be type star by Estban et al. (1998). They concluded it was a "ring nebula", the first such known around a Be supergiant. Visually it looks more like a helix than a ring giving it its spiral appearance.

Located in Orion so often over-looked and ignored. There are many more famous objects nearby.

Image Details

  • Dates: 8th & 12th March 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 & Takahashi FSQ106
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Ha (RCOS) 13 x 20 mins + RGB (Tak) 28 x 10 mins.
sh2-66-detail
sh2-266

Sh2-266



 

1st May 2017

Sharpless Sh2-235

 

Close up view of Sharpless Sh2-235 taken with the 12 inch RCOS and has much more detail than is evident in the widefield view in my previous image below, which was taken with the 4 inch Tak. Also it becomes very obvious that this group (Sh2-231, 232, 233 & 235) is really all part of one giant nebula.

South of Sh2-235 is a tiny nebula previously erroneously classed as a planetary nebula (PN G173.7+02.7). This is actually an emission nebula (confirmed by Kohoutek in 2001) and is now sometimes classified at Sh2-235A.

Galaxy Map states "Infrared analysis using the Spitzer space telescope has found 86 young stellar objects within Sh 2-235. Sh 2-235 is ionised by the O9.5 V star BD +35 1201". This is the star just about dead centre of the nebula and image.

Image Details

  • Dates: 23rd, 25th & 28th January 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 & Takahashi FSQ106
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Ha (RCOS) 15 x 20 mins + RGB (Tak) 28 x 10 mins.
ah2-235

Sh2-235



 

16th April 2017

Sharpless Sh2-231, 232, 233 & 235

 

The Sharpless numbering system went a little awry here and the nebula are from left to right: Sh2-232, -235, -231 and -233 (the smallest). Sh2-235 is the brightest - my image doesn't really represent how faint some of these are - and has below it another tiny nebula previously classed as a planetary nebula (PN G173.7+02.7). This is actually an emission nebula and is now sometimes classified at Sh2-235A. There is a real planetary nebula within Sh2-232 - see right. The nebula in the top right hand corner doesn't seem to have a catalogue number. This grouping is located in Auriga.

The following is best information I could find and is from Galaxy Map:
Sh 2-231, Sh 2-232, Sh 2-233 and Sh 2-235 are within the giant molecular cloud, G174+2.5, at a distance of about 1800 pc. They form a complex of HII regions located together in the Perseus arm in the outer galaxy. Sh2-232 is described as a peculiar belted nebula and is ionised by two giant stars: the O9.5 III HD 37737 and an anonymous B0 II class star according to Avedisova. HD 37737 may be a runaway star and is a close binary with a period of 7.84 days.

Image Details

  • Dates: 23rd, 25th & 28th January 2017
  • Telescope: Takahashi FSQ106
  • Camera: Canon 60D
  • Exposures: 28 x 10 mins with UHC filter.

Close-up of planetary nebula in Sh2-232

Pu2

PN G173.5+03.2 (Pu2)

Sh231-5

Sh2-231, -232, -233, -235



 

26th March 2017

Trifid of the North, NGC 1579

 

Although sometimes referred to as the Northern Trifid Nebula it really doesn't compare to its southern namesake. It is in fact one of the oddest nebula there is. Often (wrongly) classed as an emission nebula because it is brightest in the red and H-alpha band. Sharpless even included it in his emission nebula catalogue as Sh2-222. It is actually a reflection nebula - ref: Herbig, Andrews & Dahm (AJ2004).

If it is a reflection nebula why is it predominently red? That question has made NGC 1579 one of the most studied of nebulae. It was the detection within it of the energising star LkHa101 (see right) that led to the explanation. The nebula is red because of interstellar extinction and the nature of the illuminating source. The theory is that the star LkHa101 is a hot massive star caught very early in its development - less than a million years old. It is surrounded by its own h-alpha emission nebula. It is the light from the latter that illuminates the nebula in h-alpha light. Herbig et al. concluded only when the star's nebula has dispersed will it become visible.

Image Details

  • Dates: 20th January 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 & Takahashi FSQ106
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Ha 14 x 20 mins + RGB (Tak) 28 x 10 mins.

 

LkHa101

Image centred on the energising star LkHa101 (not visible), which is located just north of the brightest star shown. Both images taken in red band.
Left is by Herbig
, Andrews & Dahm (2004) - 2.2 metre telescope Hawaii
Right is by DR (2017) - 0.31 metre telescope Lancashire

 

NGC1579

NGC 1579



 

5th March 2017

Planetary Nebula Baade 1

 

Very few images and virtually no data available for this planetary nebula. In addition several catalogues have this object's coordinates wrong. Most catalogue sizes are an underestimate too - they appear to just give the size of the central ring, not the outer halo. Below is Walter Baade's discovery paper published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Surprisingly it is not the faintest of objects despite needing the 100 inch telescope to confirm it. It didn't need super long exposures for me to record it.

paper1935

Due east is a very faint galaxy - well faint in my narrowband image which is hardly ideal for galaxies.

Image Details

  • Dates: 4th, 13th & 14th January 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9
  • Exposures: OIII 13 x 20 mins + Ha 9 x 20 mins.

 

Type of object: Planetary nebula

Other name: PK171-25.1

RA (J2000.0): 03 53 37

Dec (J2000.0): +19 29 39

Constellation: Taurus

Magnitude: 13.9

Size: 50" (estimated)

Magnitude of central star: 17.1

 

Baade 1

Baade 1



 

19th February 2017

Close encounter of the Planetary Nebulae kind - HFG1 & Abell 6

 

When I shot Abell 6 in 2013 I also shot a widefield view which picked up HFG1 as well. In fact it was how I first became aware of HFG1. So once I had returned for an image of HFG1 it was natural to put everything together in one image. It has ended up very much as "little and large". Their separation is a fraction under 40 arc-minutes. Due to the rapid motion of HFG1 this chance encounter won't last long - well on galactic timesales that is!

Image Details

  • Dates: 11th & 17th Decmber 2013 and 4th, 21st & 22nd December 2016, 1st & 2nd January 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 40D & 60D
  • Exposures: The background is 22 x10 mins with Tak 106/Canon 40D with the nebulae from the RCOS/Apogee images - total over 24 hours.

 

Abell6-HFG1

HFG1 and Abell 6



 

12th February 2017

Planetary Nebula HFG1

 

As planetary nebulae go this one is huge. So you would think its name must stand for Huge Friendly Giant 1. But no - it' is named after its discoverers Heckathorn, Fesen & Gull, who first spotted it in 1982.

Its central star is V664 Cas, which is a 14th mag variable. It comprises a very close pre-cataclysmic binary system with a period of around 14 hours and the main emission comes from a “hot” spot on the primary. Originally it was a 3 Solar mass star but has lost 2.4 solar masses to the nebula leaving its current mass as just 0.6 solar masses. It is moving fast towards the south-east (bottom left) leaving a trail behind it and creating a shock front on its leading edge.

This is the longest exposure I have managed at 20 hours total which gives a clue that this object is faint. The central portion can be recorded pretty easily but the OIII ring/shock front is just about at my limit. Really to do it justice a dark sky and ultra-narrow band filters are needed.

Image Details

  • Dates: 4th, 21st & 22nd December 2016 and 1st & 2nd January 2017
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: OIII 24 x 30 mins, Ha 14 x 20 mins and RGB (TAK) 22 x 10 mins.

Type of object: Planetary nebula

RA (J2000.0): 03h 03m 48.8s

Dec (J2000.0): +64° 53' 28"

Constellation: Cassiopeia

Magnitude: 16.0

Size: 8.3' (OIII ring approx 15' dia)

Magnitude of central star: 14 variable

astronow-iom

HFG1

HFG1



 

29th January 2017

Planetary Nebula Abell 5

 

This Planetary Nebula does exist but there is virtually no data or images of it!

I was asked if I had an image of Abell 5 by Owen Brazell, writer of Deep-sky Challenge section for Astronomy Now magazine. The answer was not yet but it was on my list for this winter. He was considering it for one of his forthcoming challenges for visual observers. However, following my my reports that is was mighty faint on my OIII exposures, he decided against setting this object as a challenge even for the big Dobsonian boys. The OIII band is the filter of choice for visual PN observers as our eyes are pretty insensitive to h-alpha.

The H-alpha does record reasonably well if not brightly but the OIII is extremely faint. I really needed 30 minute sub-exposures. The central star is brightest in the UV and is only mag. 21.4 in the visible so was out of reach for me using narrowband filters.

Image Details

  • Dates: 26th,28th & 29th November 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9
  • Exposures: Ha 12 x 20 mins + OIII 12 x 20 mins

Type of object: Planetary nebula

RA (J2000.0): 02h 52m 18.0s

Dec (J2000.0): +50° 36' 00"

Constellation: Perseus

Magnitude: 16.0

Size: 2.2'x2.0'

Magnitude of central star: 21.4 (V)

Object classification: 4

Abell5

Abell 5



 

15th January 2017

Pisces Cloud Galaxy Cluster (Zwicky 0107.5+3212)

 

The Pisces Cloud actually refers to the whole cluster whereas the north-south chain of mainly elliptical galaxies is more accurately known as Arp331. The cluster is in turn part of the huge Perseus-Pisces supercluster. Current distance estimates for the Cloud place it just over 200 million light years away.

The cloud (and chain) is centred on NGC 383. There is some debate as to whether this an elliptical galaxy or an S0 type. It is also known as 3C 31 - a Fanaroff-Riley type I radio galaxy. Compared to quasars, these are (relatively) low-powered radio-galaxies with active galactic nuclei and relativistic jets (see right).

As the jets move out from the nucleus they interact with the interstellar medium producing shock fronts and eventually slowing down. The jets are fueled by material accreting onto a super-massive black hole. The high energy particles are shot into extragalactic space at speeds approaching the speed of light, where they eventually spread out into massive radio plumes extended further out than the complete chain.

Image Details

  • Dates: 24-25th November 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Luminance 16 x 20 mins - RGB 30 x 10 mins (Tak)

Radio Galaxy
NRAO/HST images

Pices Cloud

Pisces Cloud



 

1st January 2017

Galaxy NGC 1023 (Arp 135)

 

NGC 1023 is the brightest member of the LGG 70 group (Garcia 1993) and is overlaid by its closest companion NGC 1023A. The latter is a low-luminosity patch located near the eastern (left) end of the galaxy. NGC 1023A was first recognised as an individual galaxy by Barbon & Capaccioli (1975) and classified as Magellanic irregular or late-type dwarf galaxy by Capaccioli et al.(1986). It is slightly bluer than NGC1023. NGC 1023 is classified as a barred lenticular SB0 galaxy and is located in Perseus.

Forbes et al (2014) used Hubble Space Telescope images to study "faint fuzzies" (FF) ie clusters in NGC 1023 (right). Their image also recorded 2 Ultra Compact Dwarfs (UCD) marked with magenta squares. These rare objects were originally thought to be found only in large clusters but have now been found elsewhere as is the case here. Latest thinking is they are more likely not ultra compact dwarf (galaxies) but super star clusters, 10 times the size of globular clusters. However, the jury is still out on this one. Note the Hubble image for some reason has misplaced stars. Aligning it with my image was tricky until I realised what was wrong. How they have ended up with stars in the wrong place is a puzzle.

ucd-1023Blow-up of the UCDs from my image below.

Image Details

  • Dates: 20th November 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Luminance 12 x 20 mins - RGB 25 x 10 mins (Tak)
forbes-UCD

(Location of red and Blue FFs plus the 2 UCDs in a Hubble image of NGC 1023 - Forbes et al. 2014.

Forbes et al. didn't make a good job of their mosaic image and several stars are misplaced!

ngc1023

NGC 1023



 

18th DECEMBER 2016

Galaxies NGC 1 & 2

 

Located just inside the Square of Pegasus, this pair of galaxies mark the first entries in the New General Catalogue (NGC). This "new" catalogue was an update of John Herschel's General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars produce by Dreyer in 1888. The NGC contains 7,840 deep-sky objects.

The Catalogue was ordered by RA starting at 0 hr. NGC 1 had an RA in 1860 (the epoch of the 1888 catalogue) of 0hr 0' 04 " and NGC 2 - 0hr 0' 06" - see extract at right. Today however, due to precession NGC 1 now has a RA of 0hr 8' 6" and would no longer come first. Note in Dreyer's Catalogue DEC is measured from the pole - opposite to that we use today.

Although NGC 1 is somewhat unspectacular it is really quite a large galaxy similar to the Milky Way but located 220 million light years away. NGC 2 is unrelated and even further distant at around 315 million light years.

Image Details

  • Dates: 10th November 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Luminance 11 x 20 mins - RGB 20 x 10 mins (Tak)
ngc1888
The first 20 entries of Dreyer's New General Catalogue
NGC 1

Ngc 1 & 2



 

4th DECEMBER 2016

Stephan's Quintet

 

Probably the most famous group of galaxies in the Universe! It was the first compact galaxy group to be discovered by Edouard M. Stephan in 1877. However, it wasn't until the next century when the redshifts of the individual galaxies were measured that it became apparent that all was not as it seemed. The redshift of NGC 7320 was markedly less than the other 4 and so began one of the biggest controversies of 20th century astronomy.

Halton Arp and his supporters were convinced redshifts could not be relied upon as distance indicators and cited this group as prime evidence. Today the controversy is largely forgotten and it is accepted that NGC 7320 is not part of the group and is a foreground object. This was reaffirmed by images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope which could resolve stars in NGC 7320 but not the others. The distance to NGC 7320 is around 40 million light years and the group around 290 million light years. NGC 7320C has a redshift matching the group so perhaps it is a quintet after all.

NGC Number Note Redshift
7317 Part of true group 0.0220
7318A Part of true group 0.0221
7318B Part of true group 0.0193
7319 Part of true group 0.0225
7320 Foreground galaxy 0.0026
7320C Not part of Quintet 0.0199

 

Image Details

  • Dates: 10th October 2016 with additional images from 2009
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Luminance IDAS-P2 11 x 20 mins + RGB 22 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

>negative
Key to the group members. NGC7320C is not part of Stephan's Quintet but on the basis of redshifts appears to a member of the background group.
stephan's quintet

Abell 78



 

20th NOVEMBER 2016

Planetary Nebula Abell 78

 

Located in Cygnus. Abell 78 is one the rare class of "born again" planetary nebulae. This object was studied by ESA using their XMM-Newton X-ray space based obseravtory. The following is from the subsequent research paper by J.A. Toalá et al. 2015:-

"Although nuclear burning of hydrogen and helium had ceased in the core of the dying star, causing it to collapse under its own weight and its envelope to expand into a bubble, some of the star’s outer layers became so dense that fusion of helium resumed there. The renewed nuclear activity triggered another, much faster wind, blowing more material away. The interplay between old and new outflows has shaped the cloud’s complex structure, including the radial filaments that can be seen streaming from the collapsing star at the centre."

Quite a faint object but I perhaps went a bit overboard with the equivalent of 13.5 hours worth of exposures!

Image Details

  • Dates: 3rd, 5th & 6th October 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: H-alpha 9 x 20 mins, OIII 11 x 20 mins + RGB 42 x 10 mins (Tak) = 13.5 hours
Abell78

Abell 78



 

6th NOVEMBER 2016

Emission Nebula Sh2-140

 

A good name for the nebula would be the Seagull Nebula but unfortunately that name has already been used for Sh2-296. The blue stars are obviously a young open star cluster in the foreground but they don't appear to have a catalogue number of their own.

Galaxy Map states the following "Sh 2-140 is part of the Cepheus Bubble, the expanding shell of gas and dust surrounding the Cep OB2 association. The bright rim is created by the B0.5 V double star HD 211880 ionising a Bok globule located within the southwest side of the LDN 1204 molecular cloud".

Not one of Sharpless' best objects but with a 98% full Moon then it had to be a high DEC h-alpha target.

Image Details

  • Dates: 17th September 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: H-alpha 8 x 20 min + Colour RGB 16 x 10 mins (Tak)
sh2-140

Sh2-140



 

9th OCTOBER 2016

Emission Nebula Abell 71, Sh2-116

 

The central object in my image is known as Abell 71 and also Sh2-116 - for what kind of nebula it is read on. The much larger surrounding object is Sh2-115, an emission nebula.

Abell71/Sh2-116 has a complicated history. This time it was Abell who mis-classified it although perhaps Perek & Kohoutek (1967) should take some of the blame as they too classed it as a planetary nebula. Abell 71 is actually an emission nebula. It does appear to have an unusual spiral pattern so was perhaps an easy mistake to make. The issue was settled as long ago as 1991 by Pismis at al. in "A comparative study of the Morphology and Velocity Field of the Emission Nebula S153, S207, S212, and A71". This was based on its similarities to Sh2-153 (S153) and Sh2-207 (S207) plus the fact there was virtually no OIII emission present - a standard feature of planetary nebulae.

Image Details

  • Dates: 16th September 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: H-alpha 9 x 20 min + Colour RGB 17 x 10 mins (Tak)
abell71

Abell 71 & Sh2-115,116



 

25th SEPTEMBER 2016

Planetary Nebula NGC 6842, Sh2-95

 

What was Stewart Sharpless thinking about when he included this object in his catalogue of (red) emission nebula? It is not an emission nebula and it is definitely not red.

Virtually the only background information I could find was from the Kopernik Observatory & Science Center: "NGC 6842 was discovered in 1919 by Curtis. In has a faint 14th magnitude irregular disk with traces of ring structure. The central star is magnitude 16.2, and the nebula is about 50 arc seconds in diameter". Not sure about that ring structure though - more like a helix?

Its distance is around 4000 light year according to Phillips (2004): Planetary nebula distances re-examined: an improved statistical scale. Located in Vulpecula

Image Details

  • Dates: 11th September 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: OIII 8 x 20 min + Colour RGB 21 x 10 mins (Tak)
ngc6842

Sh2-95 - NGC 6842



 

15th SEPTEMBER 2016

A Ring Nebula in Lyra - Minkowski 1-64 (PK 64+15.1)

 

This is the "other" ring nebula in Lyra - a little less famous than M57. It is a lot lot smaller too at 1/10th the size - it is only 18 arcseconds across whereas M57 is 180 arcseconds wide. It is located to the north of M57 and just about dead centre of Lyra. It responds well to both H-alpha and OIII.

Rudolph Minkowski was a specialist in spectroscopy and worked on supernovae but in the 1940s he created a catalogue of around 200 planetary nebulae. These were not discovered with the 48 inch Palomar Schmidt telscope as might be expected but ones he had identified with the 60-inch & 100-inch telescopes at Mount Wilson. This gives a clue that they are generally very small.

Image Details

  • Dates: 2nd and 5th September 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposures: Ha 6 x 20 min + OIII 6 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 21 x 10 mins (Tak)
Mink 1-64 PN

Minkowski 1-64



 

31st AUGUST 2016

Mars, Saturn & Antares - 14th August 2016

 

Although low down this was too good a conjunction to miss. Foreground is Rivington, Lancashire - the ruins in the Japanese Gardens.

Image Details

  • Date: 14th August 2016
  • Telescope: None - fixed tripod
  • Camera: Canon 40D + 50mm lens at f/4.
  • Exposure: 1 x 1 second
   
conjunction

Mars, Saturn and Antares Conjunction 2016


 

4th AUGUST 2016

Saturn - altitude only 15.5 degrees

 

The usual summer weather meant a long wait before a clear night came along for me to image Saturn. Fainter than Mars so 10 frames per second was as fast as I could go but the seeing was much btter than when I attempted Mars. Again the homemade ADC unit was used with a separation of 45mm.

Image Details

  • Time/Date: Between 21:00 to 21:15 UT (22:00 - 22:15 BST) 29th July 2016
  • Telescope: Celestron Celestar 8-inch SCT @ f/20 with ADC unit set to 45 mm prism spacing.
  • Camera: Microsoft Lifecam Webcam
  • Exposure: 1500 frames from 5000 shot at 10 fps.
   
Saturn 2016
Saturn at 15.5 degress altitude


 

24th JULY 2016

Bode's Galaxy, M81

 

Is it possible to image Arp's loop from light polluted Lancashire? I wanted to find out and after 6 hours worth of exposures over 3 nights then answer was just about yes. Because of it size I had to resort to a mosaic to fit it all in and even then I could have done with a bit more sky coverage. Arp's Loop is at the top (north) of my image and left of centre.

M81 is not alone and is the largest galaxy in its group which also includes M82 (NGC3034), NGC3077 and NGC2976. The group has certainly undergone interactions in the past and Holmberg IX - left (east) of M81 - is left over debris from one such interaction. In 1965 Halton Arp detected this loop on plates taken with the 48-inch Schmidt on Mount Palomar. Initially it was thought Arp’s loop was a tail resulting from the tidal interaction between M81 and M82 . However, this region of the sky is known to be filled with galactic cirrus and Arp’s loop does exhibit properties similar to those observed in galactic cirrus clouds. So perhaps on balance it is more likely part of the Milky Way and not associated with M81 after all.

Image Details

  • Dates: 13th, 14th & 17th March 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 18 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 24 x 10 mins (Tak)
m81

M81



26th JUNE 2016

Keenan's System (Arp 104)

 

This intriguing system was discovered by Keenan in 1935 and then forgotten about until rediscovered in the 1950s and entered in Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as number 104.

Note many web sites featuring this object, including Wiki and APOD, have the distance hugely wrong and some have also mixed up the galaxies catalogue numbers showing they have blindly copied each other's errors! To put the record straight:-

Distance is c. 135 million light years (42Mpc)

Southern galaxy (left in my image) is NGC 5216 - an elliptical

Northern galaxy (right in my image) is NGC 5218 - disturbed spiral possibly barred but see later.

Probably the best source of information on this pair is by Gallagher & Parker: Optical Structure and Evolution of the Arp 104 Interacting Galaxy System (Astro-ph 2010). Their conclusion is that the pair are now separating after a close passage 300 million years ago and the bridge is stars dragged out from the outskirts of NGC 5218. They also favoured NGC 5218 being itself the result of an earlier minor merger. The system's eventual fate, they concluded, was likely to be a single galaxy although its type would depend on how much gas was remaining at that time.

Image Details

  • Dates: 31st March & 25th April 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 10 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 20 x 10 mins (Tak)

gp-arp104
Gallagher & Parker Fig. 1. Left is an extreme stretch to show faint features.

 

Keenan's system

Keenan's System



12th JUNE 2016

Galaxy NGC 3079 & the Gravitational Lens Quasar (QSO 0957+561 A/B)

 

In 1972, the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in a systematic survey discovered 800 radio sources. Follow up visual observation in 1979 by Walsh et al. identified this one as being double. Both had similar spectra and redshifts and they proposed that this was infact the same quasar being observed twice via a gravitational lens.

One of the predictions of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is that a massive object will distort the space around it forming what is called a Gravitational Lens. This causes light and radio waves from an object behind it to follow curved paths in its vicinity, producing multiple or distorted images of the same object. The massive object doing the bending in this case is a galaxy cluster.

Subsequent research has confirmed this as correct. The quasar images are 6 arcseconds apart and are magnitude 16.7 but they do vary. These variations observed over 30 years have shown that image A of the quasar reaches earth about 417 days earlier than the corresponding image B. Their separation of 6 arcseconds and light path diffrence of 417 light days has enabled an independent geometric check on their distance to be calculated. The redshift derived distance and this geometric distance agree. This was one of the results that confirmed the immense distance of quasars and that their redshifts are real.

North is to the right in my image.

Image Details

  • Dates: 7th March 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 11 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 22 x 10 mins (Tak)

quasar
The Gravitational Lens quasar imaged by the Jodrell Bank Merlin telescope array.

Note the jets from image A are not seen in image B. This is because the precise alignment necesaary for lensing is only correct for the quasar itself.

NGC3079

Gravitational Lens Quasar



 

5th JUNE 2016

Mars - altitude only 13 degrees

 

The ultimate test of my ADC unit on Mars at an altitude of only 13 degrees. Sure the dispersion was brilliantly cancelled out but the turbulence at this low elevation was incredible. I was surpised the resulting image was reasonably round - some features being discernible was an unexpected bonus. The simulation is from the Astronomy Now Mars Mapper. It shows a north polar cap but my guess is had melted by the time I took this image.

Not a winner but it was good fun trying get anything at this height when shooting straight over the top of Manchester.

Image Details

  • Date: 21:45 UT (22:45BST) 2nd June 2016
  • Telescope: Celestron Celestar 8-inch SCT @ f/20 with ADC unit set to 48 mm prism spacing.
  • Camera: Microsoft Lifecam Webcam
  • Exposure: 500 frames of a 5000 frame video shot at 30 fps.
   
Mars
Mars at 13 degress altitude


22nd MAY 2016

Edge-on Galaxy, IC 2233

 

IC 2233 is one of the flattest galaxies known. It is a prime example of a super-thin galaxy, where the galaxy’s diameter is at least ten times larger than the thickness. IC 2233 is actually a bulgeless Sd galaxy located at a distance of around 33 million light years.

However, IC 2233 is much more complex than it looks. Matthews & Uson (2008) discovered a regular corrugation pattern in the H i disk. They meaured the vertical structure of this galaxy at several additional wavelengths, ranging from the far-ultraviolet to the far-infrared. they found the corrugations were prominent in Population I stars, including the young to intermediate-age stars, the H ii regions, and the dust. However, the vertical displacements become less pronounced in the older stellar populations traced by the mid-infrared light. They suggested that the process leading to the vertical displacements may be linked with the regulation of star formation in the galaxy.

This galaxy was discovered by pioneer British astro-photographer Isaac Roberts in 1894. He was president of Liverpool Astronomical Society and had an observatory in Birkenhead. He is most famous for his photograph of M31 - the first to fully reveal its true form and extent.

Image Details

  • Dates: 28th February 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 12 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 21 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

IC2233

IC 2233



13th MAY 2016

Transit of Mercury 2016

 

Would you believe it - it turned out Lancashire was one of the best places on Earth to see the transit of Mercury! Our society observed the start and middle phase at Bolton School but there was time to get home and set up for a final view.

This was the last view of it from my back garden before it disappeared behind trees.

Image Details

  • Dates: 9th May 2016
  • Telescope: Celestron C8 + Thousand Oaks off-axis filter
  • Camera: Canon 60D
  • Exposure: 10 x 1/250th second

 

Mercury Transit

Mercury Transit 2016



5th MAY 2016

The Bear's Paw Galaxy, Arp 6

 

The first entry in Arp's Catalogue of Peculiar Galaxies that looks peculiar! It is generally classed as a BCD - Blue Compact Dwarf - and as such comprises a elliptical/spherical halo with several very bright star forming knots. However, the NASA NED database classes it as a barred spiral and there does seem to be perhaps a barred spiral lurking behind the start burst knots.

Also known as Markarian 86 (he liked blue objects) but more commonly known as NGC 2537. Located in Lynx and it is at a distance of around 25 million light years.

The small (spiral?) galaxy to the left is NGC 2537A but is an unrelated background object.

Image Details

  • Dates: 28th February 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 12 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 21 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

Bear Paw

The Bear's Paw Galaxy



20th APRIL 2016

The Seahorse Nebula (Sharpless Sh2-249)

 

The "Seahorse" is part of the very large nebula Sh2-249 (IC444). It is located to the north east of the supernova remnant IC443 (Sh2-248) and the association or otherwise of these two nebula is the subject of some debate. Probably the definitive paper was by Robert Fesen way back in 1984. He produced evidence that the supernova was indeed interacting with the edge of Sh2-249 thus placing them at the same distance. Yet in the same year, Donati-Falchi & Tafani concluded the exact opposite - Sh2-248 and Sh2-249 were not adjacent and interacting.

What is generally agreed is that Sh2-249 is energised by stars in the Gemini OB1 association

Image Details

  • Dates: 23rd February 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance (Ha) 9 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 18 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

Seahorse

The Seahorse Nebula



 

13th APRIL 2016

Jupiter - altitude 40 degrees

 

First test of my ADC unit on Jupiter at an altitude of 40 degrees. This altitude is probably marginal as to whether the gain in resolution (no dispersion) is greater than the effect of 2 extra glass elements (prisms) in the opical train.

The Microsoft Webcam was acting up though. Unbenown to me the Microsoft Lifecam software had re-installed itself. Sharpcap needs it to be removed to work properly but I didn't realise this till the next day. I need a check list as I only image the planets once or twice per year.

Image Details

  • Dates: 30th March 2016
  • Telescope: Celestron Celestar 8-inch SCT @ f/20 with ADC unit set to 13.5mm prism spacing.
  • Camera: Microsoft Lifecam Webcam
  • Exposure: 625 frames of a 1250 frame video shot at 10 fps.
   
Jupiter-30March2016
Jupiter 30th March 2016


15th MARCH 2016

Sharpless Sh2-241 & Van den Bergh 65

 

I could not find a great deal of information about this rather forgotten Sharpless object located down at the bottom of Auriga. Just a single paper by Vallee in 1987 gives some basic information and describes it as "a blister-type HII region on the surface envelope of a molecular cloud". The latter is listed as G180.9+4.1 and is located behind Sh2-241.

My image also contains the blueish reflection nebula Van den Bergh 65, which is a completely unrelated object. Wiki has some basic information and gives a distance of around 3600 light years. It is just part of a larger area of obscuring clouds.

Image Details

  • Dates: 14th February 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 10 x 20 mins + Colour RGB 20 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

sh241

Sh2-241 & VdB65



1st MARCH 2016

The Spaghetti Nebula, Simeis147

 

This very faint supernova remnant in Taurus is big - about 6 full Moons wide i.e. 3 degrees. It's distance is estimated at 3,000 light years and that means its real size would be around 150 light years across. It is the result of a stellar explosion that occurred 40,000 years ago which produced the nebula and left being pulsar PSR J0538+2817. The latter emits a strong radio signal discovered as part of the NRAO VLA Sky Survey.

Without using mosaics, then a 200mm lens is perfect on my Canon 60D for this object. There are never enough clear nights for mosaics in Lancashire. This time I used an Astronomik 6nm H-alpha clip filter and the result was much better than the 12nm one I had used 2 years ago.

It was also catalogued by Sharpless as Sh2-240. The tiny nebula at the 8 o' clock position is Sh2-242.

Image Details

  • Dates: 15th January 2016 with colour from February/March 2014
  • Telescope: Canon 200mm Lens at f/2.8
  • Camera: Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance H-alpha 26 x 10 mins + Colour UHC 17 x 10 mins

 

 

Simeis147

Simeis 147



14th FEBRUARY 2016

The Dwingeloo Galaxies

 

Part of the Maffei/IC342 group of galaxies but even fainter. Infra-red is all but essential to record these three.

Dwingeloo 1 and 2 were discovered in 1994 as part of the Dwingeloo Obscured Galaxy Survey (DOGS) - Dwingeloo is a Dutch 25 metre radio telescope. These two are therefore radio galaxies. MB3 on the other hand is radio quiet so they did not detect it. It was found later by McCall and Buta when they were searching for other members of the group.

Dwingeloo 1 is a classic barred spiral galaxy. Dwingeloo 2, is an irregular galaxy and largely obscured by an overlying bright star. MB 3 is surprisingly bright and thought to be a dwarf spheroidal galaxy.

Image Details

  • Dates: 14th January 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: Luminance 10 x 20 mins + IR 60 mins. Colour RGB 20 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

 

Dwingeloo

The Dwingeloo Galaxies



1st FEBRUARY 2016

Barred Spiral Galaxy Maffei 2

 

About 3/4 degree further east than Maffei 1, is the barred spiral galaxy Maffei 2 - also discovered by Paulo Maffei using infra-red film. It is much fainter but is still within range of amateur telescopes. The 4-inch Tak + DSLR used for the colour information in my image had no trouble in recording it despite the DSLR being blind to the infra-red.

Without the Milky Way blocking the view, this would be the best barred spiral in the northern hemisphere. Fingerhut et al. (2007) found that Maffei 2 was significantly more obscured than Maffei 1 despite being so close together on the sky.

The north of the galaxy is much disturbed and looks a bit odd. Hurt et al. (1996) found that this was most likely caused by a recently merged companion galaxy and the northern feature is probably a streamer from that merger.

The distances to the Maffei galaxies has always been difficult. The latest estimates are by Wu et al. (2014) placing Maffei 1 at 11 million light years and Maffei 2 at 11.5 million light years.

Image Details

  • Dates: 8th & 10th January 2016
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: 9 hours total: Luminance 240 mins + IR 60 mins. Colour RGB 24 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

 

maffei1

Maffei 2



17th JANUARY 2016

Elliptical Galaxy Maffei 1

 

Lying close to the popular Heart and Soul Nebulae, this elliptical galaxy is often imaged but seldom recognised. Being almost directly behind the plane of the Milky Way it is heavily obscured and this has made determining its distance somewhat problematical. A good compromise figure is around 10 million light years - just beyond our local group. If it was not so obscured it would be one of the showpieces of the northern sky. It was discovered by Paulo Maffei in 1967 using Infra-red sensitive film.

Although it was discovered by Paulo Maffei using infra-red film it does show up when imaged in the visible as a deep red glow. Infra-red however, does reveal its large size. To produce this image I combined visible and infra-red together so this is a somewhat false-colour image as our eyes don't see infra-red.

Image Details

  • Dates: 6th, 8th, 10th December 2015
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: 7 hours total: Luminance 120 mins + IR 60 mins. Colour RGB 22 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

 

maffei1

Maffei 1



3rd JANUARY 2016

Globular Cluster, C39

 

Yes - a globular cluster in another galaxy. If you think this is one just for big telescopes then you are in for a shock. It is surprisingly bright at magnitude 16 given its huge distance of 2.4 million light years and is well within reach of modest refractors.

It looks like a fuzzy star - don't expect to see individual stars at this range. With a larger telescope (12.5-inch) it becomes obvious it isn't a star but the cluster is not resolved. It would need the Hubble Space Telescope to see individual stars. So if you are up for the challenge of imaging a globular cluster in another galaxy then C39 is probably the best target. If you have imaged M33 before, you may have already recorded it - just check out your image - it could well be there. A globular cluster in another galaxy - in this case M33. Despite being 2.4 million light years distant it is surprisingly bright

Image Details

  • Dates: 21st & 22nd November 2015
  • Telescope: RCOS 12.5 inch at f/9 and Takahashi FSQ106N
  • Camera: Apogee Alta U9 and Canon 60D
  • Exposure: 7 hours total: CLS luminance - 11 x 20 mins + RGB 22 x 10 mins (Tak)

 

 

Hickson99

Globular Cluster C39



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