Astronomy Photos

I've been interested in astronomy for many years, but didn't go out and buy a telescope until late 2009.  My interested peaked again earlier that year in August when my brother took me with him out to Merritt Reservoir for the Nebraska Star Party.  Amateur astronomers from a wide area gather there each year because of the very dark skies in the sandhills of Nebraska.  The skies above us are full of amazing sights and below are a few of those that I've been able to capture with my new telescope.

The first three photos however, were taken before I got my new telescope.  They were taken with a "barn door star tracker" that I built in 1997 to photograph comet Hale Bopp.

Be sure to click on these photos for larger versions.

1. Comet Hale Bopp made a spectacular appearance in 1997.  Visible to the naked eye, a telescope wasn't required to see it.  But the "barn door tracker" that I built allowed long exposure pictures to be taken without star trails.

2. This picture and the next were taken at the 2009 Nebraska Star Party before I bought my new telescope.  These were taken with just my camera mounted to my "barn door tracker".  One evening the aurora was visible, a rare sight for me.

3. The Milky Way was the brightest and most obvious I have ever seen it.  Just incredible.  This really got me excited.  I had to buy a telescope!

4. This is M51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, one of my first attempts at guiding and stacking on a galaxy using my new telescope.  Not bad for a newbie I'd say.  M51 is located near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper.

5. M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, is also located near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper.

6. M13 is a tightly bound, roughly spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars that hangs out around our Milky Way galaxy.  It is located in the constellation Hercules.

7. M20, the Trifid Nebula, is located in the constellation Sagittarius.

8. M8, The Lagoon Nebula.  This nebula is pretty large.  Visually, it's about one and a half times the size of the moon.  The only reason you can't just look up and see it is because it is very dim.  Located in the constellation Sagittarius.

9. The Lagoon Nebula again, this time cropped and rotated.

10. M31, the Andromeda galaxy.  Andromeda is our nearest large neighbor galaxy.  This is another very large object in the night sky.  If it was a lot brighter, you could easily just look up and see it, about three times larger than the moon.  The smaller galaxy is M110 which is a satellite galaxy of Andromeda.

As you look at this picture, think of it in three layers.  Virtually all of the pin point stars you see in this picture are part of our own Milky Way galaxy.  So the first, nearest layer, is a star field that is part of the Milky Way.  The next middle layer is nothing but mostly empty space.  Then in the third farthest layer is the Andromeda galaxy and the satellite galaxy M110 which orbits Andromeda.  So we're looking first through a nearby star field, then through a bunch of empty space, then seeing the Andromeda galaxy.

Not surprisingly, the Andromeda galaxy is located in the constellation Andromeda.  Below the constellation Cassiopeia, the big "W".

11. M16, The Eagle Nebula.  You can see the "Pillars of Creation" in this picture from the famous NASA Hubble photo.  Of course my picture isn't as good as NASA's, but then I didn't spend as much money as NASA did either.  M16 is located above the Sagittarius teapot.

12. M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, is a dying star.  Not large enough to go "Super Nova", it is simply expelling its outer layers in a brisk stellar wind.  M27 is in the constellation Vulpecula, not too far from the head of Cygnus, the Swan.

13. It's a comet!  Comet 103P/Hartley.  A single image makes this one pretty tough to see, so I took 18 pictures over a 90 minute period, and assembled them into a video so you can see it move.  The video is pretty short so set your video player to "repeat".   Click here for the video.

14. Jupiter, and four of it's moons.  The moons are, from lower left to upper right, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

15. The Horsehead Nebula and the Flame Nebula.  The brightest star in this picture is one of the stars in the belt of Orion, the Hunter.

16. Another picture from the constellation Orion, the Hunter.  This time the Great Orion Nebula.  The bright core of the nebula is what you see as one of the stars in Orion's sword.  It was cold out, but it was definitely worth it.