Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Owl and the Cigar

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At the upper left of this image is the spiral galaxy M108 and at the lower right is the planetary nebula, M97, also known as the "Owl Nebula".  Both of these object are in the constellation Ursa Major, now seen high in the sky during this Spring season.

Looking like a big, fat cigar, M108 is a spiral galaxy viewed edge on.  Unlike most spirals, there is no bright central bulge seen here, apparently because the there is so much dusty matter hiding it from our view.  These dusty knots are easily seen in the enlarged image.

The two dark spots make this nebula look like a spooky owl.  Classified as a planetary nebula, it is no planet, but a star toward the end of its life.  The star in the center of the nebula is literally blowing its outer layers into space creating an ever enlarging bubble.

Even though it may seem like these two objects are relatively close to each other, it is far from it.  The Owl Nebula is 3,000 light years from us and well within our Milky Way galaxy, but M 108 is about 45 million light years away, 15 thousand time further away than the Owl.  If you look real close at the enlarged image and your monitor is not adjusted too dark, you'll see a very small galaxy to the lower right of the Owl (right next to a star).  Just to the left of the Owl are a few even fainter galaxies all at enormous distances from us.

In this graphic of Ursa Major, there is a small rectangle just below the bowl of the Dipper.  This is the area taken up by the top picture.

The almost two hour exposure of the image is a combination of 11 ten minute shots taken with my 190mm Mak/Newt f/5.3 telescope.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eagle Nest with Babies

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These are captured frames from a streaming video of a pair of bald eagles in the process of raising three babies.  On this date 4-3-2011, two of the three eggs have hatched.  The images below show one of the eagles feeding the oldest baby, born on 4-2-2011 scraps of rabbit meat.  The other baby born today, can't quite take food scraps yet.  Take a look at this marvelous live video feed from the nest in Decorah, Iowa at this link:
Decorah Eagles