Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Young and old clusters. And carbon star.

Messier 38 - that is the name of open star cluster in the Auriga constellation. Together with nearby M36 and M37 they are grouped at a distance of about 4200 light years away from Earth. The cluster birightest stars form a pattern resembling Greek letter pi. The age of the cluster is intermediate (about 220 million years). It's brightest member is spectral type G0 yellow giant with apparent magnitude 7.9mag. This star is 900 times more luminous than Sun.

Below M38 there is another small open cluster - NGC1907. About twice as old as M38, but contains only around 30 stars, and is placed in the same distance - about 4500 light years.
And there is even more - Czernik 21 open star cluster. Actually even if you know where it is you probably won't notice that smudge of stars. I have marked the clusters in the picture, that is how Czernik 21 has been described by Lew Gramer and Michael Carnes while observed with 17.5" telescope:
"Heading back up to M38 and then NW just 20', we encounter a third OC in this little Winter tableau, the very faint Czernik 21. This is a smudge of unresolved stars, only just visible to averted vision half way from M38 to a bright, pretty pair of stars mag 8, colored orange and yellow (HD35202 and HD35089). The smudge was quite small, making it fairly distinct at 220x in spite of its faintness." 
Czernik 21 open cluster is the oldest among these three at the picture - it is over one billion years old.

One thing caught my eye - deep red star in the picture. I was wondering if it is a post processing fault or an artifact, but it turned out to be carbon star V* OQ Aur. Carbon stars are cold, red giants that radiates most of its energy as infrared light.

Clear skies!

Wobbling Moon

One may think the Moon is faced towards us always the same side. Well, yes and no :) Actually the Moon oscillates a little during its orbital motion, so experienced observers can peek a few degrees to the dark side of the Moon. This phenomenon is called libration.
You may compare prominent crater Herschel pictures made this year by me in different seasons:

Herschel - 03.11.2014, SCT11", ASI120MM

Herschel - 14.03.2014, newton 6", ASI120MM
The difference in the view angle is quite dramatic.

Clear skies!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pacman detected

In the constellation of queen Cassiopeia among Milky Way stars there is one of many H II regions called Pacman Nebula for its resemblance of the video game character. 
Nebula has symbol NGC281. It was discovered in 1883 by E.E. Barnard, who described it as "a large faint nebula, very diffuse". The nebula is visible in amateur telescopes under dark sky. 

NGC281 is a star formation region. Inside there is young open star cluster IC1590 that contains hot, blue stars. It is placed about 9500 light years from Earth in Perseus spiral arm of our Galaxy. The largest Bok globule in Pacman nebula is about 2.6 light years large.
Picture above is shot in hydrogen alpha emission line, so you can see how the actual hydrogen clouds that are excited to shine with nearby hot stars.
Another one is close up of some Bok globules:

The first picture in this entry is false bicolor composition with additional frames made in oxygen emission lines.

Clear skies!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Elephant in red

Elephant's Trunk nebula is a part of IC1396 complex that contains both open star cluster and surrounding nebulosity. All this goods can be found in Cepheus, and the complex is about 2700 light years away. This region is pretty large - its apparent diameter is about three degrees, that is six times more than apparent diameter of the Moon.

The dark, dense globula IC1396A is commonly called the Elephant's Trunk because of its appearance at visible light wavelengths. The bright tim is the surface of the dense cloud that is beeing illuminated and ionized by very bright, massive star just to the west of the nebula. 

This star is multiple one - its members are hot, young and blue stars that emits most if its energy in UV light, ant this light causes the hydrogen molecules to shine in deep, red hue.
Elephant's Trunk nebula is supposed to be a star formation region. The IR pictures revealed a few very young stars in there (younger than 100,000 years).

Clear skies!

C/2014 E2 Jacques

This comet also currently moves away from Earth. You can see how faint it appears on the picture below (marked with red lines). At the moment the picture has been taken the comet was placed about 320 mln km both from Earth and Sun.

The globular cluster in the corner is NGC6760 about 24,000 light years away. One may wonder why so many stars in the field? Well, the frame is placed in the constellation of Aquila - all these stars belong to our Milky Way.

Monday, October 20, 2014

C/2011 J2 LINEAR

C/2011 J2 LINEAR is a comet, just another one, not very famous. Discovered in May, 2011 in LINEAR program. It had then apparent brightness of 19.7mag. Comet has not approched much Sun - the closest distance between comet and Sun was about 3.4AU (1AU is about 150mln km). 

Above is the two frames made in February, 2014. And below is negative stack 5x5 minutes:
It is actually possible to imagine a comet tail, if you try a little :)
And yesterday I made my last picture of this comet. It is currently escaping back to the space. Currently it is over 500 mln km from Earth:
In September, 2014 several astronomers discovered the fact comet ncule splitting. You can read more about it at http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/2014/09/19/c2011-j2-linear-nucleus-splitting/ page.

Clear skies!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Autumn is coming

And northern autumn constellations as well - Cygnus is the one quite well known. I already presented a few pictures positioned in this constellation, here it comes another one of IC1318 nebula. This is yet another hydrogen cloud emission nebula, excited to glow in red by nearby hot stars. Picture presents a small part of the large and complex dust and gas clouds that forms many interesting shapes in this region of the sky. The area is placed about 3700 light years away in the Orion arm of our Milky Way. 

Picture above is composite image of hydrogen alpha channel (blended to red colour) and regular RGB channels (that represents star colors). Hydrogen channel only you can see below:
In the mid right part of the picture you may notice thick, red dot. That is a small planetary nebula - Sd1. I could not find any more information about it however :)

Clear skies!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hercules globule analyzed

Messier 13 - this is the name of the brightest globular cluster visible in northern hemisphere in constellation Hercules, that is also called sometimes Hercules Globular Cluster. Apparent brightness is 5.8mag, and under really dark sky it can be spotted with naked eye. The bigger instrument we aim there the more we can observe.
M13 has been discovered by Edmond Halley in 1714. Its apparent diameter is over 20 arc minutes, so quite close to apparent diameter of the Moon. 
The cluster is located about 25 000 light years away and contains about 300 000 stars. The brightest star in the cluster is 11.95 mag. The Arecibo message of 1974, containing encoded information about the human race, DNA, atomic numbers, Earth's position, and other information, was beamed towards M13, as an experiment in contacting potential extraterrestrial civilizations in the cluster. However, the experimenters intentionally sabotaged their goal: the message will reach the cluster's past position in 25,000 years. By then, the cluster will occupy a different position in space; it will never receive the message :) 

The globular can be easily recognized in the picture above :) In the upper right corner there is NGC6207 galaxy, and in half way between the cluster and this galaxy, there is another faint galaxy - IC4617. The brighter one is 64 million light years away, and the second galaxy is about half billion light years away. Both are annotated at the picture below, and each cross marks a position of galaxies brighter than 20mag:

However the most remote object I found in the picture is quasar marked in another picture. This remote world is over 11 billion light years away!

Clear skies!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Serious (black and white) astronomy - SN2014bv

Once I started to be interested in astronomy I believed deep sky tiny galaxies black and white pictures are 'seriuos' ones. I still believe this :) Not so long time ago another supernova has been discovered - this time in NGC4386 galaxy - http://www.rochesterastronomy.org/sn2014/sn2014bv.html . Galaxy is placed in the constellation of Draco and is about 80 million light years away. Other few large galaxies are in the same distance, but there is also quite bright quasar Markarian 205 that is about one billion light years away.
Supernova is of type Ia and reached maximum brightness on June, 29th. Currently it is slowly fading.

Clear skies!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hunting Dogs fuzzies

NGC5033 (lower) and NGC5005 are two galaxies that weakly influence each other gravitionally. The spiral arms of NGC5033 are warped and this is believed to be result of these interactions. The galaxy has been discovered 1st of May, 1785 by William Herschel. NGC5033 contains Seyfert nucleus that is thought to contain supermassive black hole. The bright emission from the core region is partially produced by the hot gas in the environment around this black hole. 
NGC5005 galaxy (also known as Caldwell 29) is an inclined spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici. It contains relatively bright core and bright disk that contains multiple dust lines. X-ray observations of this galaxy revealed it contains variable point-linke X-rays source in its nucleus. It may impy it also contains supermassive black hole there. Strong X-ray emission is expected from the hot, compressed gas in the environment outside the black hole in the active galaxy nucleus. 
Both galaxies compries a physical galaxy pair placed about 40 to 60 million light years away. Some scientits believe that distorted spiral arms of NGC5033 are an effect of tidal forces from nearby NGC5005, but others claim that galaxies are not yet close enough.

And annotated image for galaxy faint fuzzies chasers :) White crosses indicate galaxies brighter than 20mag. And green lines shows the most distant object I identified at this picture - it is SDSS J131123.83+364140.4 quasar  placed 11.6 billion light years away. 

Clear skies!

Monday, June 2, 2014

SDSS J131123.83+364140.4

I exposed some frames for another galactic field and as usual I inspected them a little trying to find some remote objects. This time besides a few distant and barely visible galaxy clusters a few quasars have been identified. According to current knowledge quasars are the most energetic objects from the object group called Active Galactic Nuclei. They look very similar to the star, but actually they can emit as much energy as hundred Milky Ways, so they indeed are very distant.
There are a few photons recorded in my pictures that comes from an object catalogued as SDSS J131123.83+364140.4 . This is quite faint and distant quasar with measured redshift equals 2.8759 which correnponds to the distance about 11.5 billion light years. This is the most distant object I recorded and identified so far. The light we observe now has left the quasar long time before Solar System has been created. Not spectacular object, but rather imagination test :)

Clear skies!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Galaxies, galaxies, galaxies...

Galaxy Messier 49 is the most luminous object in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster - its apparent brightness is 8.4mag. It is placed about 56 mln light years away and there is no closer galaxy more luminous than M49. This is the first galaxy discovered in the Virgo Cluster and the second one discovered outside our Local Galaxy Group (the first one was the M83). M49 is surrounded by about 6000 globular clusters (our Milky Way has about 200 for comparison) and in its core there is supermassive black hole - 565 milion times more massive than our Sun! (in galaxies similar to Milky Way the core black hole has the mass about few million of solar masses). 

Messier 49 is not so popular among the astronomy amateurs, but quite famous among the professional astronomers - you may judge it by the number of symbols it was denominated in the different catalogs: M49, NGC 4472, UGC 07629, ARP 134, VCC 1226, CGCG 042-134, CGCG 1227.2+0816, MCG +01-32-083, GIN 781, 2MASX J12294679+0800014, SDSS J122946.76+080001.7, GALEX J122946.6+080000, WBL 410-005, LDCE 0904 NED146, HDCE 0720 NED121, USGC U490 NED177, ACSVCS 001, HOLM 413A, PGC 041220, RBS 1118, UZC J122946.6+075958, MG1 J122942+0800, 87GB 122714.6+081649, NVSS J122946+080002, FAUST 3181, FAUST V083, RGB J1229+080, RX J1229.7+0759, 1RXS J122945.9+075927, RXC J1229.7+0759, 2XMM J122946.8+080003, 1H 1228+081, 1M 1231+071, 1ES 1227+082, XSS J12312+0833, 174 NED128, 2E 2735, 2U 1231+07, 3U 1231+07, 4U 1232+07, APG 134, INTREF 501, LEDA 041220, ufff... impressive, isn't it?

There are pretty lot of other galaxies in this frame, actually as you can see in the enlarged crops below there are more galaxies in the picture than stars :) Some of them are really distant - I detected (using SDSS servers) galaxies up to 3 billion years away.

Clear skies!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Comet C/2012 K1 meets galaxy

Of course just apparently. Over the night of May 20th comet C/2012K1 PANSTARRS has been moving on the sky nearby NGC3726 galaxy. The galaxy is medium size barred spiral galaxy placed about 40 million light years away. On the other hand comet was this day about 230 milion km from Earth - for comparison if you would the galaxy in the actual distance of the Sun, the distance to comet would be about 10cm only.
And the comet is currently really big, as you can see in the image scale. The Earth placed in the comet distance would be only 4px large in the picture.
There is also a movie - 2 hours from life of a comet, but blogspot degrades movie quality much, so you can download copy from dropbox here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/jzqfx6fpz3o6qwn/panstarrs.mp4

Clear skies!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Supernova SN2014bc in M106 galaxy

Today no bells and whistles, but hardly identified supernova in quite popular galaxy M106. The galaxy itself has been pictured by me some time ago ( In galaxy far far away ) and the SN2014bc supernova is quite hard object to detect. Not because it is faint, but it lies very close to the galaxy core - a little bit over 3" (this angular separation is about the same like the apparent size of 1 cent coin visible from 1km distance). The supernova is of type II and the quite good yesterday's seeing allowed me to partially separate it from M106 core:

Clear skies!

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Do you think it means anything? :)
Well yes, that is the way astronomers calls comets. First letter indicates if comet is periodic (P) or not (C). Second part is the year the comet has been spotted. And last part is the sequence number - the letter indicates the discovery month. There letters that may appear there are A to H and J to Y. Each month is covered by two letters, so January comets are A or B, and December comets are X or Y. So C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS means 'non periodic comet discovered in year 2012, in second half of May'. And PANSTARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System - the telescope that has been used to discover this comet (and many others as well).
This comet is still approaching to the Earth and Sun - at the picture it is about 200 mln km from us and about 300 mln km from the Sun. It will reach the closest approach to the Sun on 27 August 2014 at a distance of 1.05 AU (157 mln km). Currently it is visible from northern hemisphere using a binoculars, and probably even at maximum brightness you will still need a binoculars to spot it. You can find ephemeris and finder charts for the current comets at http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ page.
The second picture is BW image inverted and processed, so you can see the second comet tail as a faint smudge to the bottom and left.
The thick and short one is dust tail. The faint tail is gas tail. 

Clear skies!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Space elements providers

Supernova explosions of the star is the only source of heavier elements in the Universe. All the heavier elements (like iron, are more heavy ones) are being created during these explosions and are spread around the space to create later planetary systems. One of these remarkable explosions happened about 10 000 years ago in the constellation of Cygnus. It created Veil Nebula placed about 1440 light years away which is now 80 light years large and still expands at speed 170km/s. Small part of this nebula is Pickering's Triangle presented below.
It was pictured by me about half year ago, but a few days ago I found these files during the disk clean up. Red regions corresponds to the hydrogen, and blue ones to oxygen. It is bicolor composition of two monochrome frames shot with the proper narrowband filters. 

Clear skies!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Remote worlds in the Markarian's Chain background

Here we have: Markarian's Chain of galaxies. Starting from top left we have two small galaxies NGC4458 and 4461, then Eyes Galaxies NGC4438-4435, and then giant elliptical galaxies M86 and M84 surrounded by few other large ones. All these galaxies are in the core part of Virgo Galaxy Cluster - about 60 million light years away. Messier 86 is the largest galaxy in the frame. This elliptical giant is moving towards us at speed 244km/s. This galaxy is linked with several filaments of ionized gas with galaxy NGC4438. Since it moves fast through intercluster medium it leaves behind a long trail of hot gas. Teh M86 galaxy has numerous globular clusters - there are about 3800 known ones. 
Messier 84 is another big elliptical galaxy in the frame. This one is about 8 million light years more distant than M86 and is moving away from us at speed over 1000km/s. Radio and HST observations of M84 indicates presence of supermassive black hole inside (its mass is estimated for 1.5 billion of solar masses).
The Eyes Galaxies (little above and to the left from frame center) are NGC4435-4438. This formation is also known as Arp 120. They are about 52 million light years away. The smaller one is NGC4435 - it has relatively young (about 190 million years) stellar population on its central regions whose origin may be the interaction with NGC4438. This latter one is the most curious interacting galaxy in the Vigro cluster. The mechanism that heats its nuclear source is uncertain. It can be a starburst region, or a black hole. This galaxy shows distorted disk with long tidal tails due to interactions with local galaxies. 
There are also plase for very remote object in this picture. Among Markarian's Chain galaxies you can easily spot many other medium sized objects placed a few hundred million light years away. But I managed to identify (using SDSS) one that is 4.4 billion light years away (redshift z=0.391) and another one 5.1 billion light years away (z=0.482) that you can identify below. Both are galaxies, not spectacular at this picture, but they are not expected to be spectacular at amateur pictures anyway :)

Clear skies!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Moonwalk - lunation 12.1

In the center of the picture below there is Gassendi crater (111km). The crater has been inundated by lava during the formation of nearby Mare Humorum (below the crater), so only the rim and central peaks remains above the surface. The crater rim is eroded, but still its circular shape is clearly visible. The rim rises above the crater floor from 200 to 2500 meters. Also at crater floor there is rilles system called Rimae Gassendi.
There are also a few other features at the picture. Second largest crater at the picture is Mersenius (85km) to the left and bottom of the Gassendi. Between these craters there are rille system designated Rimae Mersenius of length about 230km. At the picture bottom at the border of Mare Humorum there is Rupes Liebig - a 180km long fault line called from near by crater Liebig (the Sun is just rising over it at the picture bottom).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Moonwalk - lunation 7.1

Moon is almost in the middle on his way to be a Full Moon, so many interesting features come up from the shadow near the terminator line. Between Sinus Asperitatis (Bay of Roughness - top part of the first picture) and Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar) there are few prominent craters. The first one from the top is Teophilus - large impact crater. It is 101km large in diameter and 4400m deep. Its rim has terraced inner surface, that shows indication of landslips. Central mountain is 1400m high with four separate summits. 
Below and to the left there is Cyrillus crater. It is smaller and older than Teophilus, so this latter one intrudes its rim. The floor of Cyrillus is relatively flat and contains reduced central hill and considerable crater Cyrillus A. Slightly northeast to its center three rounded mountains rise to about 1000m above the crater floor: Cyrillus Alpha, Delta and Eta. Little below and to the right of these hills there is barely visible Rima Cyrillus.
When you go even lower there is Catherina impact crater. Among these three craters this one is the most ancient. Its rim is heavily worn and irregular and the floor is relatively flat but rugged. 
Small crater to the left of Catherina is Tacitus - its interior surfaces are terraced. Below tacitus to the left there starts the long crater chain called Catena Abulfeda. And Tacitus is also the end of the ridge called Rupes Altai.
To the left and above the picture center there is small, but well defined crater Kant. Its inner walls have higher albedo than surrounding surface. Near by crater center there is low central rise. To the right and above the Kant there is Mons Penck - mountain promontory that has diameter at the base about 30km and climbs up to altitude 4000m. 

At the center of second picture there is Rille Ariadaeus - over 300km long and it is thought to have been formed when a section of the Moon's crust sank down between two parallel fault lines. It is relatively young lunar formation. 
Above the rille there is Julius Caesar - lave flooded crater with low, irregular and heavily worn wall. To the left there is small Sosigenes crater and nearby smaller Sosigenes A crater. Both have almost perfectly round and bowl-like shapes. At the right part of picture in the middle there is Arago crater and above it barely visible dome - Arago Alpha. In the right bottom corner two craters: Ritter and Sabine. There is only a few kilometers valley between these two craters. Once they believed to be volcanic calderas, but eventually it turned out they are impact craters with uplift floor. In the bottom there is old D'Arrest crater, and to the left coming out from shadow two large craters - Agrippa (upper) and Godin (lower). 
To the left of Julius Casear there is Boscovich crater - almost completely eroded away with subsequent impacts. Another old crater remnant is Tempel crater - to the right of Agrippa (bottom and little left from picture center). Its rim has been eroded, indented and reshaped with subsequent impacts and lava flows. 

Clear skies!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Owl, The Far and The Ugly

Owl Nebula is approximately 8000 years old. The central star of the nebula has brightness about 14 magnitude and mass about 55% solar mass, but is much brighter and its surface temperature is 123000K. The nebula itself holds about 13% solar masses of the matter and its main components are hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen and suphur. It is typical planetary nebula placed about 2000 light years away.

M108 is very different object - barred spiral galaxy that is seen almost edge-on. This galaxy is knows as quite active one - there are 83 X-ray sources identified there, and there are also a massive black hole in the center. Its mass is estimated to 24 million solar masses. The distance to this galaxy is estimated for 45 million light years, so twenty thousands times far away than Owl Nebula. And this galaxy is really ugly, isn't it?

And what about the Far? There is one in the frame, small galaxy cluster about 800 million light years away, but still you can recognize some spiral structure of the largest member of this cluster. Other ones are apparently pretty small (how small galaxy can be? )

Clear skies!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Three planets in a row. One night. Haze. Not so warm. Moderate seeing. Low planets altitude.
Mars - low above horizon and quite far away so quite small:

Jupiter - much larger and little bit higher altitude:

Saturn - far away, and extremly low altitude, so maximum turbulences, minimum quality:

Clear skies!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring is coming

And when there is a spring there is a time fo galaxy hunting. Messier 96 (left) is spiral galaxy placed about 38 million light years away. It has been discovered in year 1781 by Pierre Méchain. It is quite small galaxy that can be hardly spot using binoculars in excellent conditions. The galaxy is categorized as double barred spiral galaxy and its nucleus probably contains supermassive black hole. M96 has assymetric arms and displaced core, probably due to interactions with nearby galaxies. M96 is also the brightest galaxy within the M96 Group.
This galaxy group also contains galaxy M95 (right) - barred spiral one. M95 was one of  the galaxies in the project of determination the Hubble constant: HST has been employeed to look for cepheids in M95 to determine its distance. After corrections for Hipparcos result the distance to M95 and other galaxies of M96 group has been determined for about 38 million light years.

A little bit below and to the right from this picture center there seems to be an empty region, but wherever you look deep enough there is always something (check the Hubble Deep Field). And it is also here - below there is 100% resolution crop from the image above. Almost half of the light sources there are the galaxies. Some of them are fainter than 19mag, and many of them have the radial velocity in the range between 12000 to 18000 km/s. So that is the apparent speed they recede from us and that implies the distance to them around one billion light years. 

Clear skies!