While making "pretty" pictures is not particularly useful scientifically, it sure is fun and does showcase the telescope to the public. We hope you enjoy them!
At right are some recent images from the 0.60 m telescope and the Apogee U6 CCD imager. Please bear in mind that these images are NOT representative of what can be seen through the eyepiece of the telescope. They are the result of timed exposures when light is essentually collected in the "light bucket" of the CCD. Each image is a combination of at least four (and in some cases 16) exposures of 1 to 4 minutes in duration. The multiple images are then added together to produce what you see.
(Click on a link below for a larger view of some of the images. For more information about how these picture are produced, see the FAQ page.)
The image of the third-quarter Moon is a mosaic, assembled from several over-lapping images.
Messier 13 is an excellent example of a globular cluster, a group of about 300,000 stars which is gravitationally bound to our Milky Way galaxy. Globular cluster stars are relatively old compared to the Sun, and most would have formed at a similar time, about 12 to 14 billion years ago. There are 200 - 300 of these globular clusters orbiting the centre of the Milky Way. Messier 13 is in the direction of the constellation of Hercules and is about 25,000 light years from Earth.
is a face-on spiral galaxy 23 million light years from us, seen in the constellation of Canes Venatici, which is not far in the sky from the Big Dipper. Known as the Whirlpool Galaxy
, it is similar in shape but smaller in size - about
43,000 light years across - than our own Milky Way Galaxy. Bright knots
along the spiral arms are regions of star formation similar to the Orion
Nebula of our own galaxy. The smaller companion galaxy, seen at the end
of one of the spiral arms is interacting with M51.
, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy
, is another beautiful face-on spiral in the constellation of Ursa Major (which contains the Big Dipper). Its spiral arms are much more open than those of Messier 51 and it is much larger than our Milky Way Galaxy, at 170,000 light years across. It is about 21 million light years away.
Galaxy, Messier 64, NGC 4631,
and NGC 4665
are spiral galaxies seen edge-on. A spiral galaxy can be thought of as similar to a dinner plate; it can appear circular when seen face-on, but when seen edge-on it looks like a thick line, or at angle in between it can have a slightly elliptical appearance.
The bright, individual stars in these images are not in the external galaxies, but are foreground stars in our own galaxy. Under dark skies away from city lights, these galaxies may be faintly visible in binoculars.
The colourful Dumbbell Nebula is 1400 light years distant in the constellation of Vulpecula. A "planetary" nebula has nothing to do with planets! It is the outer shell of a star in the final stages of its life. The star has exhausted the hydrogen fuel in its core, collapsed inward, and the outer layers of the star are puffed off in one or more spherical shells. We see these expanding gas shells as circles against the sky background. The originating star, now a small, dense star called a white dwarf, is visible at the centre of the glowing gas.
Perhaps the best known planetary nebula is the Ring Nebula in the constellation of Lyra. It is farther away at 2300 light years distant. The faint star at the centre of its coloured "smoke ring" is the white dwarf star from which the nebula was formed - once a star quite similar to our own Sun.
These are emission nebulae, regions of active star formation with gas clouds and young stars. The darker areas are molecular clouds of cold, dark dust and the brighter, red regions are the result of the newly formed stars ionizing the gas, causing it to glow.
Messier 42, the Orion Nebula, is perhaps the most recognizable star-forming region. It is seen as the middle of the three "sword" stars of the of the winter constellation of Orion, the hunter. Easily visible in binoculars, it is about 1500 light years away. In the centre of this nebula, four giant, newly-born hot stars (the "Trapezium") are exciting the surrounding gas.
The dark red Pelican Nebula is about 1800 light years away in the constellation of Cygnus, part of the larger North America Nebula complex.
The Eagle Nebula, Messier 16, is another site of star formation made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope's images. The dark pillars are cold gas and dust being "blown" into those shapes by the ultrviolet light from of newly-formed stars.