Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weather: 1, Starpilot: 0

Until I get the opportunity to do some actual astrophotography, here are a couple of ramblings to entertain you. Click on each picture for a larger image.

Rambling 1: Clouds!

Has anyone else wondered how long it will be until the clouds part and allow the sun to shine during the day and stars to twinkle at night ? Until today (when the sun finally reappeared) I was wondering if we were becoming the new Seattle. The following picture gives an indication of how the weather has been for the past several months.

This is where my telescope has been hanging out for more weeks than I can remember.

There is a light at the end of the rainbow, because it is supposed to be clear the next few days. I hope I can enjoy some star gazing before the clouds roll back in.

Rambling 2: Don't Keep Secrets, Spouses Will Find Out

Ok, Starpilot put a 'want' before logic and bought an expensive new astrophotography camera, without clearing it through my lovely young bride. Oooops! That made for a few interesting evenings around the ole' backyard observatory. I ended up in ... yup you guessed it: "The Dog House" It is a nice camera though.

To make up for my blunder, Starpilot has been living in 'Honey-Do' purgatory. My lovely young bride and I are revamping the backyard by putting several flower beds, hanging bird and critter (nuisance) feeders, and lining the deck with several 'pretty' flowers. Following are pictures of the work I have been doing to pay for my lack of wise judgement. :)

The Chain Gang!

No Daisy Dukes here, just daisies!

They're everywhere, and their plotting a takeover.

If you can't beat them, join them. I selected this hanging dingle-ball looking thingie.

If I can't take pictures of stars, I will resort to all things terrestrial.

The Secret Garden.

We ran out of time before running out of weeds, oops, I mean flowers. I say the following with enthusiasm and a big smile on my face: "Oh joy, my lovely young bride and I get to plant the rest of these flowers over Memorial weekend".

Wonder if my daughter Jacki will share her secret for 'OFFING' plants before I get overrun with them.

What the Hell is this you may ask ? It is a pine cone covered in peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. It is also symbolic of my last shred of manhood being ripped away, as I got the task of hanging these treats for the squirrels (nuisances).

Before you know it, my lovely young bride will have me building bird houses ...

... and putting squirrel feeders all over the deck.

Until the skies clear ...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Clusters, Galaxies and Nebula ... Oh My!

Been a while since I have been able to post, but life has not slowed down enough to allow me to edit, post and share astro images I have taken recently until now.

Good thing I took these pictures when I did, because it has been cloudy for three straight weeks and we are on our second straight week of rain. ICK! Makes one consider getting into radio astronomy, which can be detected through clouds rather than visual astronomy, which cannot.

With no further ado, here are some globular clusters, galaxies and nebula that I imaged while under the stars the night of 17-18 April. (Click on each picture for a larger view)

M5 - Globular Cluster

M5 was discovered in 1702 and initially described as a nebulous star. The cluster lies 24,500 light years from Earth and is believed to contain between 100,000 and 500,000 stars. M5 is associated with our Milky Way Galaxy, but has maintained its own gravitational characteristics keeping it from being absorbed by the galaxy.

M13 - Great Hercules Cluster

M13 was discovered in 1714 by Edmund Halley (the namesake of Halley's comet) and added to Charles Messier's catalog in 1764. The cluster is 145 light years across and contains several hundred-thousand stars. M13 is 25,100 light years from Earth and was once chosen as the most likely place to harbor life outside our solar system. In 1974 a message was sent from the Aricebo antenna in Puerto Rico toward M13 in hopes to one day contact intelligent life. (However, if the message recipients in M13 try to contact Earthlings while the current administration is in Washington D.C., they will wonder if there is intelligent life here on Earth)

M57 - The Ring Nebula

M57 is a classic example of a planetary nebula which forms when a 'red giant' star depletes its fule and explodes. M57 lies 2,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. It is one of the brightest and most compact palnetary nebula in existance.

M92 - Globular Cluster

M92 is located in the constellation Hercules and is second in brightness to M13, also in Hercules. The cluster contains some 330,000 stars and is 109 light years across and is located approximately 26,700 light years from Earth.

M97 - Owl Nebula

The Owl Nebula is one of the faintest Messier objects in the sky, but easily seen in dark sky conditions. M97 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Ursa Major. The "Owl Nebula" name was given, because viewers can see what appears to be owl eyes when looking at the object through a telescope. M97 is located along the bottom of the dipper in the "Big Dipper" portion of Ursa Major.

M101 - Pinwheel Galaxy

Like many other northern hemisphere galaxies, the Pinwheel Galaxy is located in the constellation Ursa Major. It is located some 27 million light years away from Earth. M101 is believed to contain some 100 million solar masses (stars) and is 170,000 light years in diameter (nearly twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy).

M104 - Sombrero Galaxy

This spiral galaxy, which contains a bright central bulge and a large duct cloud at the galaxy edge resembles a Mexican sombrero. M104 lies in the constellation Virgo and is part of a group of nearby galaxies called the "Virgo Cluster", which the Milky Way galaxy belongs to. At the center if the Sombrero Galaxy is a super-massive Black Hole, a space object so dense that ligh itself cannot escape it.

That's all for now. I hope to get back out in a week or so and image some of the other interesting space objects. That provided the rain pushes out.

Doing an anti - Rain Dance

Star Pilot