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!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Birthday Jupiter

Jupiter is the largest planet of the Solar system - it is over 1300 times heavier than Earth and its surface area is over 120 times larger than our planet. It is the giant gas planet that contains mostly hydrogen and helium and it makes it similar in composition to the stars. There are four large Jovian satellites known as Galilean moons (that have been discovered by Galileo) but the total number of currently known satellites is 67.
The picture below has been recorded on March, 14th and it is my first color picture of Jupiter. The technique of picturing planets differs from deeps sky objects - we use high focal length and high magnification and record the actual movies of the planet. Then using dedicated software we select the best quality frames of the movies and stack them into single image. The tubulences in the Earth atmosphere is the main reason for degrading planet images quality.
Pictures from the left are: RRGB composite, and separate R, G and B channels. Each frame has been created from about 300 single frames selected from 2000 frames movies recorded with average fps 35. The effective focal length of the setup was 2260mm.

Why birthday? Because today is my birthday :)

Clear skies!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Great Bear fuzzies

Great Bear constellation is well known undeer the northern hemisphere. This large constellation lies far away from the Milky Way plane, so there should be visible a lot of galaxies that will not be obscured by Milky Way dust and gas clouds. And there are :)
The brightest galaxy in this area is Bode's Galaxy M81. It is the largest member of so called M81 Group, that contains about 30 identified members. The group is about 12 million light years away and is the part of Virgo Supercluster. Second largest member is M82 Cigar Galaxy where about one months ago a supernova star has exploded. These two galaxies are really prominent - all other M81 Group members are quite small. On the picture below I gave up on M82 and shot M81 with NGC3077 galaxy. The latter one is small galaxy discovered by William Herschel in November, 1801. He wrote about it:
"On the nF (NE) side, there is a faint ray interrupting the roundness." Admiral Smyth described it as "A bright-class round nebula; it is a lucid white, and lights up in the centre ... between these [stars,] the sky is intensely black, and shows the nebula as if floating in awful and illimitable space, at an inconceivable distance."
The dusty lines in the NGC3077 are a result of strong gravitational interactions between all three galaxies (M81, M82 and NGC3077) and this small galaxy is also a place where many star formation regions are present. NGC3077 is neither spiral nor elliptical galaxy - it is of type I0 peculiar. So take a look into peculiar galaxy NGC3077 :)

And the whole frame:

The picture above has been exposed over two nights with the Moon present and a little of high clouds, so not really a good time for deep sky astrophotography. But I didn't want to waste a reasonably clear night and decided to picture this frame anyway.

Clear skies!