Another glob: M80

Another glob: M80

It’s globular cluster season, so here’s another one! M80 is found within the constellation Scorpius, and lies a distant 32,600 light-years away – making it one the small side from our vantage point. It contains several hundred thousand stars, and is one of the denser globular clusters in our galaxy. The faint galaxy in the…

Omega Centauri – the biggest globular cluster, or is it something else?

Omega Centauri – the biggest globular cluster, or is it something else?

This object was a real challenge to image. From central Florida, it only rises 13 degrees above the horizon, deep within the light-polluted murk of my Southern sky. Omega Centauri is a Southern hemisphere object, so capturing it from the Northern hemisphere requires effort. It’s worth it though – this is one of the most…

The Needle Galaxy

The Needle Galaxy

Somewhere between 30 and 50 million light-years away, within the constellation Coma Berenices, lies NGC4565 – commonly known as the “Needle Galaxy”. It’s a spiral galaxy, but viewed edge-on – so we see its central bulge and the edge of the galaxy’s disc extending from it. Clouds of dust within the galaxy obscure the middle…

A Cosmic Sunflower

A Cosmic Sunflower

Last night I revisited M63, the Sunflower Galaxy. More formally M63, the Sunflower Galaxy is about 25 million light-years away. It’s about the same size as our Milky Way, but is classified as a “flocculent spiral” galaxy due to its poorly defined spiral arms. The more distant edge-on spiral galaxy on the right doesn’t show…

The Medusa Nebula

The Medusa Nebula

This is planetary nebula PK205+14.1, but its common name “The Medusa Nebula” rolls off the tongue a little better. About 1500 light-years away within the constellation Gemini, you’re seeing the gas blown off by a small star that ran out of fuel, and blew up into a red giant – later to end its life…

NGC2403: An obscure galaxy in an obscure constellation.

NGC2403: An obscure galaxy in an obscure constellation.

About 10 million light-years away within the constellation Camelopardalis lies NGC2403. It doesn’t get much love, but it was really an oversight in the famous Messier catalog that defines the most popular deep-sky objects. So let’s give it a little attention, and reflect on the fact that the light we’re seeing from this galaxy started…

The Rosette Nebula

The Rosette Nebula

The Rosette Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. It’s the birthplace of the cluster of stars it contains. While it doesn’t look much like a Rose in this view, the false-color narrowband image below brings out more of its structure. 7 1/2 hours of total exposure time, on New Year’s Eve…

Orion’s Sword

Orion’s Sword

If you look at the constellation Orion in the winter night’s sky, the center of Orion’s “sword” is not a star at all – it is the brightest nebula in our sky, M42 or the Great Nebula of Orion. Sitting right on top of it is technically another nebula designated M43, and above that is…

Going Deep with the Horsehead and Flame

Going Deep with the Horsehead and Flame

The Horsehead and Flame nebulas, although popular, are really difficult to image together. The clouds of Hydrogen look best using narrowband filters, but the blue reflection nebula below the Horsehead only appears in wideband, color filters. Further complicating matters is the bright star Alnitak, one of the stars that makes up Orion’s belt. In narrowband,…

The Moon

The Moon

Last night was hazy, cloudy, and with an almost-full moon that would wash out anything else I could try to image. So, I imaged the Moon itself. Tried out some new techniques; usually you would use a specialized telescope with a specialized camera and specialized software for shooting the Moon, but I wanted to see…

The Sculptor Galaxy

The Sculptor Galaxy

NGC253 is most commonly known as the “Sculptor Galaxy,” because it’s found within the constellation Sculptor. You probably haven’t heard of Sculptor – that’s because it is considered a Southern-hemisphere constellation, and it’s only visible in the US from Southern states such as Florida. It’s also known as the “Silver Coin Galaxy.” It’s part of…

A Celestial Swan

A Celestial Swan

This is M17, the “Swan Nebula”. Everyone seems to see something different in it! To me the whole thing looks like a swan seen from the side, but my family sees different birds within it. It’s like seeing shapes in clouds, which makes sense, as this is just a really, really big cloud of gas…

The Eagle Nebula, home of the “Pillars of Creation”

The Eagle Nebula, home of the “Pillars of Creation”

Perhaps the most famous Hubble image is the “Pillars of Creation,” towers of gas where new stars are being born within the Eagle Nebula (formally M16.) My backyard telescope under the thick Florida atmosphere can’t match the resolution of Hubble, but it can still capture this object. I’ve imaged this before, but this is the…

M92: A pretty, but overlooked globular cluster

M92: A pretty, but overlooked globular cluster

Had a few hours of clear skies last night, and captured a globular cluster I hadn’t imaged before: M92. It’s a pretty one, and I’m surprised it’s not more popular. It’s in the constellation Hercules, and I suspect it just gets overshadowed by its even more spectacular neighbor, M13. Globular clusters were enshrouded in mystery…

M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy – Another year, another try

M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy – Another year, another try

Every year I image the “Whirlpool Galaxy” (really a pair of galaxies interacting with each other,) and every year it gets a little bit better. This year it was shot from our new observatory, on a newly-tuned mount and with some more image processing experience under my belt. It’s also under slightly darker skies, which…

Thor’s Helmet

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

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…

A Celestial Fox (and cone, and Christmas tree…)

A Celestial Fox (and cone, and Christmas tree…)

This image contains a few things! At the bottom is the Cone Nebula, at the upper-right is the “Fox Fur Nebula”, and in the middle is the “Christmas Tree” star cluster… you have to flip the image upside down to see that one. It’s a gorgeous region of active star formation in the constellation Monoceros….

The Monkey Head Nebula

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:…

New Course: Planetary Imaging Workshop with Mars – Hands On!

New Course: Planetary Imaging Workshop with Mars – Hands On!

Check out our new online course on planetary imaging! Planetary Imaging Workshop with Mars – Hands On! Included is 1.7 GB of sample data of Mars from a night of good seeing; you can follow along with AutoStakkert, Registax, and Photoshop to produce the Mars image you see above! I’ll show you all my tips…