Thor’s Helmet
Frank's Astrophotos

Thor’s Helmet

This week’s target was Thor’s Helmet (NGC 2359), an emission nebula in Canis Major a rather distant 12,000 light-years away. It’s formed by a Wolf-Rayet star in its center, which is a crazy-hot star whose immense stellar wind is bunching up and ionizing the gases around it in these complex patterns. It’ll probably go supernova…

Another year, another Bode’s Galaxy image
Frank's Astrophotos

Another year, another Bode’s Galaxy image

Every year I try to take a better image of M81, Bode’s Galaxy. It’s located about 12 million light-years away, which is unfathomably far but close by galactic standards. Look closely, and you’ll see a faint splotchiness in the background. This is the Integrated Flux Nebula (IFN,) composed of gases that lie just outside of…

The head of the “seagull”
Frank's Astrophotos

The head of the “seagull”

Formally this nebula is called vdB93, but more commonly it is a part of the “seagull nebula.” The larger nebula really does look like a flying bird, but it’s a little too big to fit in the field of view of my telescope – so I focused instead on its “head” where most of the…

The Monkey Head Nebula
Frank's Astrophotos

The Monkey Head Nebula

The Monkey Head Nebula is located about 6400 light-years away, in the constellation Orion. It’s a gorgeous cloud of gas surrounding a cluster of young stars. I processed this data a couple of different ways; one using the “Hubble palette” and another using my own color scheme. The colors represent different kinds of ionized gases:…

A Star Cloud in Another Galaxy
Frank's Astrophotos

A Star Cloud in Another Galaxy

NGC206 is an unusual object. It’s a cluster of stars, which in itself is not unusual at all… but it’s in ANOTHER GALAXY. The Andromeda Galaxy, to be precise. The fact that we can see it so clearly, two and a half million light-years away, boggles the mind. It’s that cluster of blue stars near…

Mars Fever
Frank's Astrophotos

Mars Fever

The amateur astronomy community is pretty excited at Mars lately – it’s nearing its closest approach to Earth right now, and this one’s even closer than usual. That means some of the best viewing and imaging opportunities for the Red Planet you’ll ever get. When the skies clear and the atmosphere is still, it’s an…

The Moon is Ready for its Close-Up
Frank's Astrophotos

The Moon is Ready for its Close-Up

Last night I set out to image Jupiter and Saturn, but both are pretty far away at this point, and the atmospheric conditions weren’t great. So I tried for the Moon instead. We take our nearest celestial neighbor for granted – there’s a whole world right next to us, waiting for us to explore it!…

Mars and Uranus
Frank's Astrophotos

Mars and Uranus

As with any form of photography, getting a good shot is largely about being in the right place at the right time. When it comes to photographing the planets, sometimes that means getting up at a painful hour. Both Mars and Uranus are nearing “opposition” – the point where they are directly across from Earth…

Another Look at Jupiter and Saturn.
Frank's Astrophotos

Another Look at Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter and Saturn both reached “opposition” over the summer, meaning they had their closest approach to Earth for the year. Florida’s summer weather conspired against photographing the planets at that time, but the skies finally cleared last night. They’re not at their closest, but… they’re close enough. I think this is my best Jupiter image…

The Elephant’s Trunk
Frank's Astrophotos

The Elephant’s Trunk

Formally IC1396, this cloud of interstellar gas and dust is thought to be an active site of new star formation. And with a little imagination, it kind of looks like an elephant’s trunk. There’s more to it than you see here, but I tried to get an interesting framing. From this angle we see a…

Comet hunting!
Frank's Astrophotos

Comet hunting!

There’s a comet in the sky! They don’t appear this bright very often, so don’t miss what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a comet with your own eyes. It’s tough to spot here in suburbia with your eyes, but it’s easy to see with binoculars. Its official name is C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. Just…

A Supernova 50 million light-years away!
Frank's Astrophotos

A Supernova 50 million light-years away!

Highlighted here is a recently discovered supernova in the galaxy M61, over 50 million light-years away! This exploding star outshines the entire core of its own galaxy, and many of the much closer stars seen within our Milky Way. The sheer power of this stellar explosion is unfathomable. It’s 50 million light-years away, which means…

Early-morning planetary imaging
Frank's Astrophotos

Early-morning planetary imaging

We recently obtained a new telescope for observing the planets, and we had our first good conditions for planetary imaging this morning! This is the best image of Jupiter I’ve ever gotten, and I’m hopeful that it will be even better once it gets closer to Earth in a couple of Months. Saturn’s not looking…

Globular cluster M92
Frank's Astrophotos

Globular cluster M92

Globular clusters are mysterious objects – they are dense clusters of stars, some containing hundreds of thousands of them. And they’re not within the plane of the Milky Way galaxy; they are scattered around it. How they formed is a bit of a mystery. Did they form with our galaxy, or are they the cores…

The Hickson 44 Galaxy Group
Frank's Astrophotos

The Hickson 44 Galaxy Group

This is a weird little cluster of galaxies – there are four in all, and each one is completely different. There’s a weird, S-shaped one that must have been messed up by its neighbors in the past, a somewhat normal-looking spiral galaxy, and elliptical, and another one that’s viewed edge-on. Galaxies that have interacted with…

Another glob.
Frank's Astrophotos

Another glob.

Here we have another globular cluster: M53. You don’t see this one imaged too often, but it’s still quite pretty. I’ve never met a globular cluster I didn’t like. It’s one of the more distant globular clusters in our galaxy, about 60,000 light-years away.

The galaxy M106
Frank's Astrophotos

The galaxy M106

This galaxy goes only by the boring name “M106”, but it’s anything but boring. About 23 million light-years away, M106 is pretty similar to Andromeda in its size and brightness. But M106 is a lot weirder. In addition to its slightly warped shape, M106 is the home of a giant water-vapor “megamaser.” Think a galaxy-sized…

The Coalsack, Imaged from Australia!
Frank's Astrophotos

The Coalsack, Imaged from Australia!

It’s been really cloudy lately in Central Florida, so instead of imaging from my driveway, I’ve tried using remote observatories. This particular image was taken using a telescope in Australia, using a service called telescope.live. This is the “Coalsack nebula”, a dark cloud of gas obscuring the Milky Way in the Southern hemisphere. We’re looking…

The Horsehead and the Flame
Frank's Astrophotos

The Horsehead and the Flame

I trained my telescope at this pair of nebulas in Orion for a total of 10 hours. On the right is the iconic Horsehead nebula – actually a dark cloud of gas in front of the illuminated nebula behind it. To the left is the Flame Nebula. In between, in the upper-left, is the bright…

Bode’s Galaxies (Again)
Frank's Astrophotos

Bode’s Galaxies (Again)

Seems I revisit this pair of galaxies, 12 million light-years distant, every year. Although they are close and bright as galaxies go, they are challenging targets for imaging – especially if you are trying to pull out the faint jets spewing out of the Cigar Galaxy on the right. This image represents over 25 hours…

The Fox Fur Nebula (and more!)
Frank's Astrophotos

The Fox Fur Nebula (and more!)

I’ve wanted to image the “Fox Fur Nebula” for awhile now – it’s pretty obvious where it is in this image! Within the same field of view is the Cone Nebula (near the bottom.) It’s all an area of gas within the Christmas Tree Cluster, which is an open cluster of stars that kind of…

The Jellyfish Nebula
Frank's Astrophotos

The Jellyfish Nebula

The “Jellyfish Nebula” is a supernova remnant in the constellation Gemini, about 5,000 light-years away. It’s the gas blown off from a star that exploded, sometime between 3,000 and 30,000 years ago – we’re really not sure when it happened. But it makes for quite a spectacle! I was plagued with technical issues while capturing…

The Baby’s Bottom
Frank's Astrophotos

The Baby’s Bottom

This is a small part of a larger nebula called the “Baby Nebula” (also known as the Soul Nebula) in the constellation Cassiopeia. If you see a baby in the larger nebula this is part of, this image would be of the baby’s bottom đŸ™‚ There is a ton of star formation going on in…

The Nebula with No Name
Frank's Astrophotos

The Nebula with No Name

This dim nebula in the constellation Perseus has no name, apart from its catalog numbers NGC 1491 and LBN 704. I think it deserves one. It reminds me of the Bubble nebula – if you look closely, you’ll see a “bubble” at center being created from the stellar wind of the hot star that is…

Will astrophotographers be replaced by robots?
Frank's Astrophotos

Will astrophotographers be replaced by robots?

Deep-sky astrophotography is the ultimate hobby for nerds; it combines endless tinkering with highly specialized technology, exploration of the cosmos, and constant challenges, achievements, and learning. But, could this hobby be automated to the point where anyone can do it? Products such as Stellina and Unistellar promise to deliver an experience where you can plop…

The “Silver Sliver” Galaxy
Frank's Astrophotos

The “Silver Sliver” Galaxy

Try saying that three times fast! Fortunately, the “Silver Sliver Galaxy” has a formal name that’s easier to pronounce: NGC 891. It’s about 30 million light-years away, and is thought to be very similar to what our own Milky Way galaxy would look like when viewed edge-on. Explore the wider-field image; click on it for…

The “Fish-Head Nebula”
Frank's Astrophotos

The “Fish-Head Nebula”

It’s really just a small portion of the Heart Nebula… that kinda looks like a fish. Maybe not the prettiest object in the cosmos, but it reflects a few technical accomplishments for me. About 20 hours of exposure time in total on this. Below I’m presenting it in a false-color “Hubble Palette”, as well as…

The “Pac-Man” Nebula?
Frank's Astrophotos

The “Pac-Man” Nebula?

This gorgeous nebula, formally known as NGC281 in the constellation Cassiopeia, goes by the informal name of “The Pac-Man Nebula.” I don’t see a Pac-Man. I think it’s a case where if you look at it through a telescope with your eyes, you only see the brightest parts – and then, maybe it looks a…

A bunch of galaxies in Pegasus.
Frank's Astrophotos

A bunch of galaxies in Pegasus.

There are two different clusters of galaxies in this image – the large galaxy you see is NGC 7331, part of the “Deer Lick Galaxy Group.” The smaller galaxies you see surrounding it (sometimes called “The Fleas”) are actually about ten times further away than NGC 7331. In the corner, you’ll see “Stephan’s Quintet,” a…

The Pelican Nebula
Frank's Astrophotos

The Pelican Nebula

Granted this is only a portion of it, but for the life of me I don’t see a pelican in this thing. But, it’s still pretty. I processed this object two ways: using the “Hubble palette” that maps red, green, and blue to Sulfur, Hydrogen, and Oxygen emissions (that results in the pretty blue one)…

Polar ring galaxy NGC660
Frank's Astrophotos

Polar ring galaxy NGC660

This galaxy is truly one of a kind, at least among that galaxies we have found. It’s a “polar ring galaxy,” probably the result of an unusual collision that left the core lenticular galaxy surrounded by the disk of another galaxy that it merged with. It’s a small, dim object, and just barely detectable from…

The Ghost of Cassiopeia
Frank's Astrophotos

The Ghost of Cassiopeia

It doesn’t take much imagination to see a ghost leaving a trail of ectoplasm in this cloud of Hydrogen gas, lit up by the bright star Navi. To keep with a spooky and ethereal theme, I photographed this object in monochrome using only a Hydrogen-alpha filter.

Off to See the Wizard
Frank's Astrophotos

Off to See the Wizard

There are a lot of stars in this picture; the gases of the Wizard Nebula (formally SH2-142) are the birthplace of those stars, and more are being created even now. It’s located about 7,200 light-years away, and is extremely dim – it took over 9 hours of exposure time to capture this image. Your ability…

The “Witch’s Broom”
Frank's Astrophotos

The “Witch’s Broom”

As Halloween draws closer, this seems like an appropriate object to image: the “Witch’s Broom” nebula! Although to be honest, that bright star (Cygnus 56) looks more like an eye on some sort of fantastical, cosmic creature to me. In reality, it’s part of the larger Veil Nebula, which is a huge supernova remnant 1,400…

Summertime weather hiatus…
Frank's Astrophotos

Summertime weather hiatus…

Yeah, it’s been a couple of months since we’ve done a live star party online, or posted any new pictures. That’s just summertime in Central Florida for you – it’s been too cloudy to do any imaging or observing. The skies should start clearing up more in a couple of months, and we have every…

Live Star Party: The Pinwheel Galaxy
Podcasts

Live Star Party: The Pinwheel Galaxy

Last night, we aimed our telescope at the Pinwheel Galaxy, and it just got prettier and prettier over time. Together, we’ll look at a trillion stars 20 million light-years away – it’s mind-blowing stuff. Check it out! We also discussed the distant world Ultima Thule in Tori’s “Far Out Fact” segment. Learn more about this…

A Tulip and a Supernova
Frank's Astrophotos

A Tulip and a Supernova

In these short summer nights, I want to take advantage of every moment of darkness. Right now, the galaxy M100 is up in the hours before midnight, and the “Tulip Nebula” – formally SH2-101 – rises just as M100 sets. So for this past week, I’ve been imaging both objects. But no more clear skies…

The Dumbbell Nebula
Frank's Astrophotos

The Dumbbell Nebula

The Dumbbell Nebula (M27) is what’s called a planetary nebula – but it has nothing to do with a planet. This shell of gas was blown out by a dying star; once it started to run out of Hydrogen to burn, it expanded and blew out the gases you see here. The star then collapsed…

Light pollution: dealing with it.
Frank's Astrophotos

Light pollution: dealing with it.

(Image credit: ddmitr, iStockPhoto.com) Every picture on this site was taken from a suburban driveway in a “red zone” on the light pollution map, literally underneath a streetlight. Every year more subdivisions and apartment buildings spring up in my city, and light pollution from the metro Orlando area just keeps getting worse. There are four…

The Crescent Nebula
Frank's Astrophotos

The Crescent Nebula

Like the Bubble Nebula, and Thor’s Helmet, this is formed by the fast stellar wind of the extremely hot star at its heart – which interacts in complex ways from the wind left over from when this star was a red giant. This is roughly 5,000 light-years away. These images were taken over the span…