M45 – The Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru…

M45, also known as the Pleiades throughout the USA, or the Seven Sisters in Greek mythology, or Subaru in Japan, Persian name Soraya, is an open cluster of new – astronomically speaking – stars. This group of stars can be seen with the unaided eye, which is one of the reasons it is so popular among many people, and has been referenced long ago, and also mentioned by Homer around 750 B.C., by biblical Amos around 750 B.C. and by Hesio around 700 B.C. At least 6 of the stars can be seen with the unaided eye, with the number increasing to 9 or so under clear dark skies. On March 4, 1769, Charles Messier added the Pleiades to his list of clusters and nebula published in 1771. It wasn’t until long exposure photography that we realized that the stars of the Pleiades are imbedded in a nebulous material, which are a blue color, which indicates it is a reflection nebula. The brightest of the nebula around Meope was discovered on October 19, 1859 by Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht (Wilhelm) Tempel in Venice. It wasn’t until the later 1880s that the nebulae around Alcyone, Electra, Celaeno and Taygeta were found in photographs.

The nebulae found in the cluster are most likely part of a molecular cloud that is unrelated to the Pleiades star cluster. Many people have believed that the dust in the images is leftover from the formation of the stars, but it does not appear to be associated with the stars due to having different radial velocities. It is calculated that the stars of the Pleiades age is around 100 million years old, with a future lifetime expectancy of another 250 million years. By which time the stars will have spread out onto their own orbital paths. The ESA have determined the distance to the cluster using direct parallax measurements estimating a distance of 380 light-years. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mount Palomar and Mount Wilson Observatories the distance is more accurately estimated to be 440 +/- 6 light-years.

Information from the Messier Catalog

M45 Location

M45 Location

My observations were short that night as it was a bit cold. I didn’t spend more time than I had to outside at the telescope. I did take a couple minutes to soak in the view of the Pleiades. There are no signs of nebula without photography, so even in my telescope it was just bright blue stars arranged in an almost Ursa Minor formation. As a kid I always thought the Pleiades was the little dipper, as it has a shape sort of similar; I believe that may just be due to the way the stars Maia, Electra, Merope, Alcyone, and Atlas form a bowl and handle shape like the dippers.

M45/Pleiades/Seven Sisters/Subaru 12-19-14

M45/Pleiades/Seven Sisters/Subaru 12-19-14

This image is 25 light frames at 5 minutes a piece, 25 Flat Frames, 25 Flat Dark Frames, and 12 Dark Frames. Stacked in a new-to-me software, IRIS and following a tutorial by Jim Solomon’s IRIS Cookbook with some small minor touches in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
PHD Autoguiding
Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Modified Canon 350D
Baader MPCC Mark III Coma Corrector

NGC 7023 – The Iris Nebula

In the constellation of Cepheus during the fall months you can find NGC 7023. The Iris Nebula is a large reflection nebula with an apparent magnitude of 6.8. This nebula is lit by the bright star SAO 19158 at a magnitude of 7. It lies in the Milky Way about 1300 light years away from our solar system, and has a radius of 3 light years making it 6 light years across.

Location of NGC 7023

Location of NGC 7023

Through the eyepiece of my 6” telescope from my light polluted skies this nebula was not visible. Upon further magnification of the central star it started to appear a bit fuzzy. In the field of view there was the one bright central star and multiple dim stars scattered lightly through the field.

NGC 7023 taken on 07-18-14

Taken on the night of July 18, 2014. This image consists of 22 images at 300 seconds each, 17 flat frames, and 18 dark frames. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
PHD Autoguiding
Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Modified Canon 350D

NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula

Within the constellation Cassiopeia at a distance of 9,200 light years from earth is NGC 281. This nebula is in the Perseus arm of our Milky Way galaxy and includes the star cluster IC 1590 which is formed from around 279 individual stars in and about the cluster. Due to the darker nebulous regions of the cluster it has been dubbed the Pacman Nebula after the video game character. Discovered in 1883 by E. E. Barnard who described it as a “large faint nebula.”

Location of NGC 281 in Cassiopeia.

Location of NGC 281 in Cassiopeia.

In a clear dark sky you should be able to spot this nebula with an amateur telescope. From my backyard I couldn’t make out the nebula no matter how dark adapted my eyes were.

NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula 08-01-2014

This image of composed of 23@300 second light frames, 13 flat frames, and 25 dark frames. Stacking done in deep sky stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
PHD autoguiding
Orion Starshoot autoguider
Modified Canon 350D

NGC 6992 – The Eastern Veil Nebula

The brightest portion of the Easter Veil Nebula is the region of NGC 6992. This is just a small section of the entire Cygnus Loop. The Cygnus Loop consists of the Western Veil , Eastern Veil, and Pickering’s Triangle. Discovered on September 5, 1784 by William Herschel, he described the western end as ex extending through the star 52 Cygni and roughly 2 degrees in length. He also described the eastern veil as branching nebulosity stringing and coming together towards the southern end. This nebula is large, but relatively faint, and it is a supernova remnant. The source of the supernova is estimated between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. The entire Cygnus Loop covers and area of 3 degrees in diameter with an estimated distance of 1,470 light years from Earth. Analysis by the Hubble Space Telescope indicate the presence of oxygen, sulfur, and hydrogen.

Location of the Eastern Veil Nebula

Location of the Eastern Veil Nebula

Through the eyepiece I couldn’t see the nebula, and even a 2 minute photo it was very faint and hard to spot. The 5 minute images brought out more of the nebula and showed hints of the blues tucked into the red. Maybe the ¾ moon played a roll in washing it out so it was hard to see in the eyepiece.

Eastern Veil Nebula taken June 08, 2014

This image is 18 shots at 5 minutes each ISO 800. 33 Flat frames, and 20 dark frames. Stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
PHD autoguiding
Orion Starshoot autoguider
Modified Canon 350D

M13 – The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

Messier object 13 is a large globular cluster in the constellation, Hercules. It is one of the most prominent globular clusters in the Northern celestial hemisphere. Discovered by Edmond Halley in 1714 who observed that the cluster can be seen with the unaided eye in dark enough conditions (back then, that meant without a large moon washing out the sky, not so much city lights). Charles Messier cataloged M13 on June 1, 1764. It lies approximately 25,100 light years away from Earth with a diameter of 20′ (20 arcminutes) or 145 light years visually. There are several hundreds of thousands of stars in the cluster where most of them are highly concentrated in the core of the cluster.

Location of M13 in Hercules.

Location of M13 in Hercules.

With the unaided eye in a clear dark location you can easily spot the faint fuzzy look of M13 in Hercules. With binoculars or a small telescope the core becomes quite prominent, and with a larger scope still you can begin to focus some of the stars away from the dense core. Excellent object for any beginner to look at and is relatively easily to find.

M13 – The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules taken in the early hours of June 8, 2014.

This image is 13 images at 5 minutes and 24 images at 2 minutes for a total of 2.8 hours, all images taken at ISO 800. 33 flat frames, and 44 dark frames. Stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing in photoshop. I did the two exposures as separate stacks and combined them in Photoshop. I was attempting to bring out some detail in the core with the shorter exposures while trying to get the dimmer outer stars of the cluster using the longer exposures. Didn’t quite work the way as planned, but I’m still pleased with the final restuls.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
PHD autoguiding
Orion Starshoot autoguider
Modified Canon 350D