This wee object is a bit of a challenge to capture & process, but worth the effort. Planetary nebulae typically subtend a very small visual angle; this one is no exception at approximately 30 x 24 arcseconds. The Saturn Nebula sports some very clear ansae (the two bright knots in the 'rings') and a very pretty blue-green halo that suggests ionised oxygen. Aller's (1961) spectrograph seems to confirm this (Kaler, 1997).
This image covers a massive star formation region approximately 4 kly away, and contains several nebulae. The largest is the emission nebula IC 4685, in the central portion of this photograph. The dark, dust lane of Barnard 303 snakes across it and points to the bright, white star (V3903 Sgr; an Orion-type variable) in the middle right. The blue reflection nebula on the lower right is NGC 6559. In the lower left corner is fainter IC 1275. It is possible that the emission nebulae are part of a river of hydrogen connecting to M8, the Lagoon Nebula, which is a nearby neighbour.
There is rather a lot going on in this image. IC 1274 is the circular structure in the top, middle-right section of this photo. It is an HII region, sitting on the near edge of a seriously large molecular cloud known as Lynds 227. A dark nebula (Barnard 91) defines the top edge of the nebula. The bright star in the center of IC 1274 is a young, energetic B0 V star (HD 166033); current thinking is that this is the star that has blown this massive bubble (Dahm et al., 2011). The nebula, itself, contain many stars in the B0-B5 range, which suggests that this is a population of new stars.
The Carina Nebula, where the South Pillars region exists, has an incredible array of fascinating objects and processes. In this image, for instance, we see pillars - also known colloquially as "elephant trunks" - of dust in which stars are being born. The best example in this photo is in the lower left quadrant. Recent research (McLeod et al., 2016) has suggested that such pillars are likely to disappear once the star comes into being due to a process known as photoevaporation, in which the powerful stellar wind from the new star literally blows away its cocoon.
I love the halo effect on Acrux when photographed.
The bright star Alpha Crucis marks the base of the Southern Cross, and at magnitude 0.8, ranks as one of the brightest stars in the southern skies. Also known as Acrux, this star is an excellent multiple star system for binoculars and a small telescope. And it’s one of the few double stars that can be resolved with a telescope during daylight hours.
This image of the Prawn Nebula (IC 4628) is a closer view than is normally found. If you include all its ‘suburbs’, the Prawn covers quite a significant patch near the midpoint of the Scorpion. This area of the sky is well-known amongst astrophotographers as a rich hunting ground for these type of emission nebulae. IC 4628 is a fairly active stellar nursery, and it contains several hot, young, and bright stars, including a couple of rare (-ish) and short-lived O-type stars.
Saturday morning saw us take on the challenge of carrying the 12 inch telescope up the Port Hills to Victoria Park in an attempt to help people understand the lunar eclipse phenomena and what they were seeing. We chose a location that we thought was readily accessible, but forgot to take into account the gates would be shut at that time of day (we'll learn for next time). So we set up on the side access road to the dog exercise area and were very shortly joined by around 100 people and a camera crew from Newshub.
Matariki is the Māori name for a cluster of stars. This year, from July 6 to 9, Matariki will re-appear in the dawn sky – signalling the start of the Māori New Year.
At 22:07 tonight the sun reaches the northernmost point in it’s annual journey around the sky. We go past our shortest day and from tomorrow the days get longer.
So, if you are in the Southern hemisphere, happy winter solstice. It’s also the longest night of the year, so go out and enjoy our amazing Southern Hemisphere sky!
The night sky is continuing to fill up with planets with all of them visible at some point during the night. Now all we need are some clear skies. Keep watching our weather pages for a guide as to the probability of getting some views.