Our Image Gallery
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!
Below are some images produced by the 0.6 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 collected for a period of time 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 in special software to produce what you see. (Recall that when you look through an eyepiece at the telescope, your brain processes the light your eye receives in only a fraction of a second!)
Messier 42 (at right), better known as the Orion Nebula, is perhaps the most recognizable example of an emission nebula, a region 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. 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.
This colourful planetary nebula (at left), called the Dumbbell, 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 original star, now a small, dense star called a white dwarf, is visible at the centre of the glowing gas.
Messier 13 (at right) 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.
Messier 101 (at left), also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, is a beautiful face-on spiral galaxy in the constellation of Ursa Major (which contains the Big Dipper). Its spiral arms are more open and it is much larger than our Milky Way Galaxy, at 170,000 light years across. It is about 21 million light years away.
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.
Messier 104 (at right), the Sombrero Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy seen edge-on. It has more tightly wound spiral arms and less gas than our own Milky Way galaxy and is about 36 million light years away.
The bright, individual stars in these two galaxy images are not in the galaxies themselves, but are foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. Under dark skies, far away from city lights, these galaxies may be faintly visible in binoculars.