Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Fireworks Galaxy and NGC 6939

I like finding objects that are close to one another in the sky like this interesting pair. Of course, they are many millions of light years apart from one another, but from our perspective they are neighbors. The spiral galaxy to the lower-left is cataloged as NGC 6946, but is more commonly known as the Fireworks Galaxy due to the unusually large number of supernovae recorded there in the past century. The Fireworks Galaxy is located along the border of the constellations Cepheus and Cygnus.  Distance estimates vary between 10 and a little over 20 million light years away.

Open cluster NGC 6939 is considerably closer, at about 4000 light years, in the constellation Cepheus.

Fireworks Galaxy and NGC 6939; Canon EOS Rebel T3 (1100D); ST80 on Vixen SP mount; 16x120 @ ISO-3200

The Andromeda Galaxy

With good eyes at a dark location, you might see a faint smudge of light located about halfway between the Milky Way and the Great Square of Pegasus. This is our nearest galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31. It spans an area in the sky several times the angular size of the Full Moon, but most people don't notice it. Regardless of this lack of notoriety among the general public, the Andromeda Galaxy is at least twice the size of our own galaxy, and appears to be heading straight toward us!

This is a difficult object to image due to its size. A patient person with enough time on his or her hands would do it in sections and build a mosaic. Not being particularly patient or possessing much time, I chose to do it in one series of shots. It barely fits within the field of view of my camera on the ST80; and since I do not have a field flattener there is a noticeable distortion on the edges. Still, I think this is my best one so far.

Messier 31; Canon EOS Rebel T3 (1100D); ST80 on Vixen SP mount; 20x120 @ ISO-3200

The Milky Way

This is a wide-angle image of the Milky Way that roughly encompasses the area between the constellations Aquila (lower-left) to Scorpius (upper-right), taken during the night of the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower from the SHSU observatory.

Milky Way; Canon EOS Rebel T3 (1100D), 18-55mm zoom lens at 18mm; Vixen SP mount; 15x120 @ ISO-1600, f/3.5

Here is a close-up centered on the area around Sagittarius. Several prominent features are visible, including the Sagittarius Star Cloud (M24), the Eagle Nebula (M16), the Swan Nebula (M17), the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Trifid Nebula (M20) and Messier 21, Ptolemy's Cluster (M7), the Wild Duck Cluster (M11), and Messier 22.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn Equinox 2013

The road in front of my house runs east-west, so I thought I'd try one of those sunrise or sunset equinox pictures. Today was the first full day of autumn in East Texas. The sky was overcast at sunrise, but I was able to get these pictures about 20 minutes before sunset.

Looking West shortly before sunset.

Looking East, casting a long shadow.