Thursday, October 19, 2017
M51: THE WHIRLPOOL GALAXY Image Credit & Copyright: Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn (Weather and Sky Photography)
Find the Big Dipper and follow the handle away from the dipper's bowl until you get to the last bright star. Then, just slide your telescope a little south and west and you'll come upon this stunning pair of interacting galaxies, the 51st entry in Charles Messier's famous catalog. Perhaps the original spiral nebula, the large galaxy with well defined spiral structure is also cataloged as NGC 5194. Its spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweep in front of its companion galaxy (bottom), NGC 5195. The pair are about 31 million light-years distant and officially lie within the angular boundaries of the small constellation Canes Venatici. Though M51 looks faint and fuzzy to the eye, deep images like this one can reveal striking colors and the faint tidal debris around the smaller galaxy
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Blue dust clouds and young, energetic stars inhabit this telescopic vista, less than 500 light-years away toward the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. The dust clouds effectively block light from more distant background stars in the Milky Way. But the striking complex of reflection nebulas cataloged as NGC 6726, 6727, and IC 4812 produce a characteristic blue color as light from the region's bright blue stars is reflected by the cosmic dust. The dust also obscures from view stars still in the process of formation. At the left, smaller yellowish nebula NGC 6729 bends around young variable star R Coronae Australis. Just below it, glowing arcs and loops shocked by outflows from embedded newborn stars are identified as Herbig-Haro objects. On the sky this field of view spans about one degree, corresponding to almost nine light-years at the estimated distance of the nearby star forming region.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
A large coronal hole stands out as the most obvious feature on the sun this week (Oct. 12-13, 2017). The dark structure, shaped kind of like the Pi symbol, spreads across much of the top of the sun. Though one cannot tell from this image and video clip in false-color extreme ultraviolet light, it is spewing high-speed solar wind particles into space and has been doing this all week. It is likely that these charged particles have been interacting with Earth's atmosphere and generating many aurora displays in regions near the poles the past several days.
Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA.