Nebulae, galaxies, open clusters, a supernova remnant and a planet…

The fact that I didn’t post something for a while has nothing to do with me giving up my astrophotography hobby. Better yet, it causes me to have a boatload of astrophotos to show you. February appears to have been quite the productive month for me, more on that later.

First of all, I got a pretty decent shot of the galaxy couple M81 and M82. It shows some red detail in M82 (top left) and 2 distinct dust lanes around M81. They do not just appear close in this image, they are actually quite close to each other. Close enough in fact, for the galactic gravitational fields to enhance star formation in the other galaxy.

The M81 and M82 galaxies

The M81 and M82 galaxies

Now, most of the images I post here are stacks that represent total exposure times of 10 minutes or more. But of my favourite target, the Great Nebula in Orion, I got only some 10 decent frames of 30 seconds each. When I realised this, shooting a pile of good M42 photos became my top telescope-priority. The image below is the result of stacking 40 30-second photos and shows some really cool detail in the dust clouds. Also, a faint blue bow is noticably which marks the top of the entire nebula. In the dark region between the bright nebula and the upper blue bow is filled with red, even fainter gas clouds. Longer exposure times will probably reveal more of this.

My best M42 so far. If your screen is bright, or you look at it from an angle, you can even make out the top bow.

My best M42 so far. If your screen is bright, or you look at it from an angle, you can even make out the top bow.

In my previous post, I showed you my first photo of the Flame and Horsehead nebula. I figured that if I used my f10 telescope, I would get a more detailed view of the small horsehead feature. Sadly, I didn’t manage to get a good image of the Horsehead Nebula, but I did get a cool Jupiter. Since I haven’t had my camera attached to my f10 with Jupiter high in the night skies, I decided to give it a go and actually captured Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (bottom right of the planet, in the red belt).

Jupiter captures with dslr on evening with pretty poor seeing (about 60 frames)

Jupiter captures with dslr on evening with pretty poor seeing (about 60 frames)

I also tried to capture M35, which also didn’t turn out very great, like the Horsehead Nebula. I think my light pollution filter doesn’t work very well with the optics in the f10. But as this image is already way better than what I got from the Horsehead Nebula and it shows a lot of brilliant stars, why not post it here right?

M35; an open cluster

M35; an open cluster

After 2 weeks of constant cloud cover, a few days ago I got the opportunity to take some shots between pathes of fast floating clouds. The allmost full moon gave my photos a small gradient, which became a big gradient after stretching the intensity levels. Nevertheless I got a quite cool image of M1; the Crab Nebula. I especially like how star-littered the image is and that the nebula itself is a remnant of a supernova explosion in the year 1054.

M1; the Crab Nebula. A supernova remnant from an explosion in 1054.

M1; the Crab Nebula. A supernova remnant from an explosion in 1054.

Another image I took was one of the Pleiades. More 30 second images and the use of a light pollution filter gave me better results than before. More surrounding dust clouds are apparent and I also like how the optics cause bright circles around the stars that translate with the position in the image.

M45; the Pleiades star cluster traveling through clouds of dust

M45; the Pleiades star cluster traveling through clouds of dust

If you recall that I also captured M51 and the Flame and Horsehead Nebulae earlier this month, you probably figure that all the photos together would make a great poster. At least, that’s what I did… So here it is: The first JCdeBoer.com-poster-of-the-month!

Poster of all the astrophotos I shot this February

Poster of all the astrophotos I shot this February

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Last week’s coolest

As I am quite busy with my study at the moment, I haven’t had the time to get out with my telescope. Apart from that, there also isn’t much new to show you this time of the year. You have seen what I can make of the brightest planetary nebula, star clusters and the andromeda galaxy:

There certainly is lots and lots of more interesting stuff up there, but nothing that’s bright enough for me to be able to photograph with the equipment I have right now. Once I get more time and saved me enough to buy a motorized mount, I will have so much more to show you. Until then, I will wait for Jupiter and the Orion constellation to be up at a reasonable time. I’m sure I can make some cool pictures of those with the setup I have right now.

Even though I haven’t been shooting cool pictures myself, I’ve certainly seen some taken by others that I would to share with you. Starting with this awesome image of the Dumbbell Nebula, M27 (click for supersized image):

Collective image of the Dumbbell Nebula shot by 13 different amateur astronomers: Claudio Bottari, Paolo Demaria, Giuseppe Donatiello, Marco Favuzzi, Andrew Genualdi, Federico Lavarino, Rolando Ligustri (CAST), Andrea Pistocchini, Craig Prost, Christian Riou, Bert Scheuneman, Tim Stone, Rubes Turchetti (CAST)

Collective image of the Dumbbell Nebula shot by 13 different amateur astronomers: Claudio Bottari, Paolo Demaria, Giuseppe Donatiello, Marco Favuzzi, Andrew Genualdi, Federico Lavarino, Rolando Ligustri (CAST), Andrea Pistocchini, Craig Prost, Christian Riou, Bert Scheuneman, Tim Stone, Rubes Turchetti (CAST)

This image is a result of 13 amateur astronomers that stacked their results (which are stacks of long exposures themselves) together into one image that contains data obtained during what must have been more than 24 hours total. You can actually see the inner star, radiating so intenste that it blows it’s outer shell away. This image is mostly green and red corresponding to¬† Oxygen-III and H-alpha emission respectively.

On the 2nd of September, a group led by the University of Hawaii published how they discovered the structure of our supercluster. Our what? Well you know that the Earth orbits around the Sun right? And that the Sun, together with millions of other stars, orbits a supermassive black hole to form our galaxy, the Milky Way. Together with Andromeda and some 50 smaller (dwarf) galaxies we make up something called the ‘Local Group’: a small group of neigboring galaxies. This little group is in turn part of the Virgo cluster of small groups. Well, Virgo and 2 other galaxy clusters, make up our supercluster and she’s called: Laniakea, which means immeasurable heaven in Hawaiian. Her shape it shown in the image below where our Milky Way is marked with a blue dot.

Our home supercluster: Laniakea

Our home supercluster: Laniakea

Astronomers have indexed a huge amount of galaxies with their positions and velocities. Subtracting the velocity of the galaxies caused by the expansion of the universe, they were left with the velocities due to gravitational attraction. From their velocities (paths marked by white lines), the astronomers were able to deduce the point all galaxies in our supercluster are heading to, called ‘The Great Attractor’. Great name right?

The Northern lights have been all over the news this week and I have seen a lot of beautiful pictures coming from Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia. The best I’ve seen wasn’t photographed last week, but over a year ago. The photograph also shows a huge meteor crashing through the atmosphere and I just had to post it here.

Shannon Bileski caught this beautiful picture at March 29, 2013

Shannon Bileski caught this beautiful picture at March 29, 2013. You van find more of her photos at http://www.signatureexposures.com