Saturday, June 4, 2016

Back in the Observatory again !

Well, at long last the skies are more clear than not! Last night's skies were EXCELLENT ! Here are a few of my captures using my Celestron NexStar 8 inch telescope (8iSE) with a Canon XS camera body attached to it. The exposures were short, 10 seconds each, but stacked using DeepSkyStacker Live software to create a final image that is much longer.

I started off with M 13 in the constellation Hercules.  Sometimes called the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules or the Hercules Globular Cluster, is a globular cluster of about 300,000 stars. M13 was discovered by Edmond Halley in 1714, and catalogued by Charles Messier on June 1, 1764. It is about 145 light-years in diameter, and it is composed of several hundred thousand stars and is 25,100 light-years away from Earth.
It can be seen as a fuzzy patch with binoculars but it takes a good telescope to make out the individual stars...

From there I went to one of my favorite nebulae, M 57, aka The Ring Nebula. Located in the constellation Lyra, south of the brilliant star Vega (which is almost directly overhead in late summer in the evening from my location in Oregon). This nebula was discovered by the French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January 1779, who reported that it was " large as Jupiter and resembles a planet which is fading". Later the same month, fellow French astronomer Charles Messier independently found the same nebula while searching for comets and became the 57th object on his list.
First up is the "wide view" that my Canon XS (modded) camera sensor captured with my Celestron NexStar 8iSE telescope with the Celestron f/6.3 focal reducer. As you can see, it was a very tiny ring !

But here is a 1:1 cropped image of M 57 from the above photo. You can see the star in the middle that is the source of the explosive ring of gasses around it. The nebula is a shell of ionized gas is being expelled even now into the surrounding interstellar medium by a red giant star, which was passing through the last stage in its evolution before becoming a white dwarf. 
I was pleased that my modification of the camera made it significantly more red sensitive. I hope to capture a better image in the future months but without the focal reducer (which give a wide field and short exposures but results in a less magnified view.

Then I slide over to M 56, another smaller collection of star, a very small globular cluster compared to M 13. Charles Messier, who cataloged these objects know as Messier objects was looking for new comets with his telescope nearly 300 years ago and was annoyed by these fuzzy patches of stars and nebulae. So he made a list of them so that he would not be distracted by them. It was discovered by Charles Messier on January 19, 1779. M56 is at a distance of about 32,900 light-years from Earth and measures roughly 84 light-years across.

Finally, I moved to M 92, another brilliant globular cluster in Hercules. It was discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1777 but was independently rediscovered by Charles Messier on March 18, 1781 and added as the 92nd entry in his catalog. M92 is at a distance of about 26,700 light-years away from Earth. M92 is one of the brighter globular clusters in the northern hemisphere, but it is often overlooked by amateur astronomers because of its proximity to the even more spectacular Messier 13. It is visible to the naked eye under very good conditions (but not with my old eyes now !) 

Well, I was getting sleepy and decided to close up the observatory for the night (12:30 am).
I am looking forward to a productive summer enjoying God's creation!

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