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  1. Ah, yes, another one of those ‘named’ nebulae. Although a singular honour, I do wonder, occasionally, if the person has ever looked into the eyepiece and thought “Really? I look like that?” IC 2599 is also known as the Gabriela Mistral Nebula, in honour of one of Chile’s most famous poets and Nobel Prize recipients. It’s good to see some southern hemisphere folks getting some celestial recognition. The nebula is in the Carina constellation, approximately 7500 ly from us and spans about 40 ly across. IC 2599 is associated with the open cluster NGC 3324 – a very luminous group of hot, young star
  2. Gary

    Messier 17

    When one has been struggling with cursed objects (DSOs that, despite repeated best efforts, never seem to yield decent data), I have found that it is a good idea to go back to something reasonably basic but still interesting. Messier 17 is just such an object: big, bright, easily identified, and colourful. M 17 goes by several names. The one I grew up with was the Swan Nebula, but it is also known as the Omega Nebula, the Checkmark Nebula, and the Horseshoe Nebula. Most of these names are based on the lighter central region that is seen through most telescopes. If you squint, you can imagine a
  3. This is a wide field image of the Large Magellanic Cloud. NGC 2070 (The Tarantula Nebula) is clearly visible at centre right, an N11 (The Bean Nebula) is in the lower left corner. In fact, the LMC is chocka with what astronomers refer to as DSOs, or deep space objects. Almost any condensed knot of light has a designation in one or more astronomical catalogues. The central bar of the dwarf galaxy is clearly visible in this image. It is thought that some of the LMC's spiral arms were ripped off in tidal interactions with the Small Magellanic Cloud and our own, much larger, Milky Way galaxy, whic
  4. The "Cat's Paw" Nebula can be found in Scorpius. NGC 6334 is relatively nearby, astronomically speaking - about 5.5 kly away from us - and, at 50 ly across, it is intrinsically large. Visually, it is covers a section of the sky that is approximately 40' x 23', which is slightly larger than the full moon. It is another of those popular objects for astrophotographers, and for good reasons; it's big, bright, and has an interesting shape. In a wider view of the object, there is no mistaking why it was given its name. With this image, however, I chose a much closer framing of the object to sho
  5. Gary

    IC 4603

    This is not the prettiest of astronomical objects, but I like it for the sheer amount of action that it implies - interstellar dust and hydrogen gas are blowing every which way, and star formation is occurring at quite a clip due to an ancient supernova having taken place nearby. IC 4603 - the central nebulosity in this image - can be found near Antares, but just inside the borders of the constellation Ophiuchus. The dust is illuminated by the light of SAO 184376, a bright (Mag. 7.6), pre-main sequence, B-type star, which gives us that distinctive blue of a reflection nebula. Photo stuff:
  6. I published a wide-field photo of Messier 20 (about 4.1 kly, in Sagittarius) back in June, which prompted me to go after a proper 'head and shoulders' shot - with a twist, as this time I combined luminance and narrowband light. "Narrowband" is a term used by astrophotographers to denote the use of one or more filters to gather image data from very narrow slices of the spectrum. In this image, those filters were hydrogen-alpha (looking through it, an intense red), hydrogen-beta (dark blue), and oxygen-III (cyan/green-ish), bolstered by the luminance data. Besides making for some very striking p
  7. Gary

    NGC 5367 and CG12

    This is a rather complex pair of objects in the constellation Centaurus. The blue reflection nebula is NGC 5367. While the nebula is quite pretty, the more interesting object, for me and for the professional astronomy community, is the brownish cloud that envelopes and slightly obscures NGC 5367. This is the cometary globule CG12, which extends somewhat further off the left side of this image. Cometary globules get their name from their appearance, which vaguely resembles a rather poorly formed comet. Most of these types of globules hang about near the galactic plane but CG12 is a bit unusual
  8. Gary

    IC 4605

    A welcome run of clear nights recently allowed me to lose yet more sleep and get some imaging done. This is the result of one of those runs. IC 4605 is a beautiful reflection nebula that is lit up by the bright (magnitude 4.8) blue, main sequence star, 22 Scorpii, which lies about 413 light years away from us. Although the star is visible from a reasonably dark sky site, long exposures with a camera are needed before the tenuous dust clouds that envelope it can be seen. This nebula is part of the much larger and very colourful Rho Ophiuchi Nebula complex. I have an image of that somewhere tha
  9. As I was making my way through my past images, I came across one from 2017 that - rather oddly - I had not yet fully processed. This is a wide field photo of the Trifid Nebula (Messier 20). It is a perennial favourite of astrophotographers, and a relatively easy target for beginners to learn data gathering and post-processing. M20 is a stellar nursery located about five degrees west from Lambda Sagittarii and two degrees northwest of Messier 8 (Lagoon Nebula). It has the unusual characteristic of having several distinct components: reflection (blue), emission (pink), and dark (the 'lanes') n
  10. This one was unplanned. The sky cleared, I stepped out into the backyard, and there was Jupiter about 3 degrees from a just-past-full moon. I grabbed a few shots and created this composite. The composite was necessary to show all the objects, of course, because exposing for the moon completely dims Jupiter and loses its Galilean moons, while exposing for Jupiter makes the moon look like the lens is staring at the sun. In the end, I processed three separate frames (Moon, Jupiter, and the Galilean moons) as they appeared through the viewfinder. Date: May 21, 2019 (about 01:00) R.A. (appr
  11. Gary

    NGC 2736

    This is another of those "challenging" objects I unwisely decide to tackle occasionally. This one is worth it, though, I think. Herschel's Ray, also known as the Pencil Nebula, is a beautiful swipe of blue and pink shock waves in the constellation Vela. At 3/4 of a light year in size, it is a reasonably sized object in its own right. However, it is just a tiny portion of the truly gigantic Vela Supernova. That "remnant" is what was left after a very large star cataclysmically exploded as a Type II supernova about 11,000 years ago. The force of this destruction, in turn, created a swath of deli
  12. I know, I know - not the prettiest name for a such an interesting galaxy, but I didn't come up with it. NGC 2442 is an example of a peculiar, barred spiral galaxy. In this case, its peculiarity is most likely due to gravitational tides when it interacted with another galaxy at some point in its history; possibly the smaller one (PGC 21456) visible to its right. Besides leaving it with an odd shape, the interaction would have started a burst of star formation evident in its arms. The Meathook, which is approximately 56 Mly away, can be found in the constellation Volans. Although not the brighte
  13. A while back, I had picked up a "new" (to me) Tamron 24 mm lens. I decided to do some wide-field, night-sky photography to try it out and, eventually, came up with this image. The Moa (in NZ) or the Emu (in Australia), seen in profile, is a series of visually connected dark regions in this portion of the Milky Way. Look for the two bright stars in the middle of the image. These mark the neck and shoulder. Just above and to the right is the head and beak, which, to astronomers, goes by the unlovely name of Caldwell 99 ("The Coal Sack Nebula"). Just above that is the Southern Cross. Moving down
  14. NGC 346, which resides in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), is an open star cluster with surrounding nebulosity. At magnitude 10.3 and having a smallish size (~14 x 11 arcseconds), it is relatively easy to spot with a small telescope. This photograph was taken through H-alpha, H-beta, and OIII narrowband filters, which reveal the different densities of ionised hydrogen and oxygen gases in NGC 346 and the surrounding N66 gaseous region. My guess is that the apparent structural elements of the nebula in this image are likely the result of high-velocity stellar winds causing interstellar gas to p
  15. Gary

    Quarter Moon

    Among astrophotographers, I suspect that our moon is a seen as a bit too common to spend much time on. After all, we can observe it with the naked eye - why waste precious minutes on it when we can be chasing down some truly weird objects out there in the universe? And yet, I find that I come back to it quite often, either for a photograph or, more often, just to consider it's many features through a decent telescope or set of binoculars. There is still something beguiling about getting up close and personal with all those craters. There are quite a few interesting features visible in th
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