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 thumbnail 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.

17. I took a second image of M51 about a year after the first to see if I could see the super nova that erupted there.  Sure enough, there it is!  Here is the comparison between the two images.

18. M57, the Ring Nebula.  Formerly a red giant star, it's expelling its outer layers as it dies.

If you look closely to the lower right of the nebula, you can just barely see a faint galaxy (IC1296).  It looks like a star that is a little fuzzier than the others in this picture.  M57 is about 4 thousand light years away and the galaxy is about 200 million light years away.

19. The Rosette Nebula.  Another large object in the night sky.  Visually almost three times the size of the moon if it were bright enough to see without a telescope and long exposure photograph.  Located a little to the left of the constellation Orion in the evening sky.

20. 5-20-2012.  Eclipse at sunset.

21. Venus transits the sun at sunset!

22. NGC 4565, a galaxy seen edgewise.  You can see dark debris in the outer spiral arm obscuring the glow from bulge at the galaxy's center.

23. The Iris Nebula.  It's in the constellation Cepheus.

24. Caldwell 2.  A planetary nebula in the constellation Cepheus.

25. M1, the Crab Nebula.  M1 is a super nova remnant in the constellation Taurus.  The super nova was observed in 1054 by Chinese astronomers as a new star bright enough to be seen during the day.  Lots of nice star color in this one.

26. Mars

27. Jupiter

28. Saturn

29. Western Veil Nebula, near the wing of Cygnus the Swan.  It's also known by some as the Witch's Broom.  Look at all those stars!  In the city, you won't be able to see any of those stars.  Not even that brightest one.

30. Eastern Veil Nebula, near the wing of Cygnus the Swan.  The backdrop is the Milky Way so there are tons of stars.

31. This is Pluto!  With the recent interest in Pluto and the flyby with the New Horizons Probe, I wanted to see if I could see Pluto with my telescope.  This is a blink comparison of two pictures taken two days apart.  This is the same technique used by Clyde Tombaugh when he discovered Pluto back in 1930.  Of course I had the advantage of knowing which direction to look.  The two pictures make the motion of Pluto visible.