Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice

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I hope you took a peek at a rare event going on over our heads on December 21.  A Lunar Eclipse is not rare, but the fact that it happened on the Winter Solstice is.  The last time there was a Lunar Eclipse on the first day of Winter was 372 years ago, and it won't happen again until 2094.  The picture above was taken a few minutes after the Moon started moving into the Earth's shadow.

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It was cloudy all day but soon after the event started the clouds started to dissipate and cleared enough to get the above picture.  Note the red color caused by sunlight first passing through the Earth's stratosphere then reflecting off the Moon.  At the upper right there is a turquoise fringe.  This is sunlight first passing through the Earth's ozone layer.

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As it started to emerge from the Earth's shadow the clouds started coming back giving a "diamond ring" glow to this wonder of nature.

All pictures were taken with my 300mm f/4 and Canon XTi on a tripod.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bubble Nebula and M 52

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The Bubble Nebula, lower left, and the Star Cluster M 52, at upper right, create a beautiful contrasting duet of deep sky objects in the constellation Cassiopeia.

M 52 can be seen as a fuzzy patch in a pair of binoculars, but it takes a telescope to resolve about 200 stars in Cassiopeia's rich starry field.

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The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) looks like a tiny soap bubble, but this bubble is six light years in diameter.  It definitely takes a telescope to detect it.  The bright star, upper right of the bubble's center, is 40 times the mass of our sun.  High energetic winds from this star blow the surrounding gas into a glowing shell.  In time, the star will explode into a supernova, pierce the bubble and scatter it and its surrounding further out into space.  Something we may be able to see even without a telescope.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

M33 - Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum

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My previous post was of a spiral galaxy (NGC 891) seen edge on.  Here is a spiral galaxy seen face on.  This galaxy is much closer to us, therefore almost filling the field of view of my 1000mm telescope.  Formally known as Messier 33 (M33), it is also call the Pinwheel galaxy due to its fantastic spiral shape.  If you know exactly where to look in the sky, you are away from the light pollution of a city and have good eyesight, you can just see it as a fuzzy patch of light without optical aid.  At 3 million light years away, it is one of the furthest objects you can see without a telescope.

Make sure to click on the image so that you can take a look at all the intricate detail scattered across the galaxy.  Because this is a very active star forming galaxy, you can see small pink areas that are hydrogen emission nebulae (star factories), large star clusters and many lanes of dust circling this incredible scene.