Archive for the ‘Deepsky’ Category

Near and far

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Deepsky, Imaging, Minor Planets, Observing

I’m a little late posting this but I did manage to get a picture of asteroid 2012 DA14 during last weeks close approach.

The evening started clear but clouded over just as me and few other friends from NASTRO were arriving at Hauxley Nature Reserve.  I got polar aligned with the 80mm refractor through occasional gaps in the cloud so that when the sky did begin to clear at around 8.30pm I was able to find the asteroid fairly quickly.

A point of light drifting through the stars in the eyepiece.  It was easily discernible motion at low magnification.  I put the camera in place and took this one minute exposure:

2012DA14

The moving asteroid shows up as a line because of the long exposure.  Then the clouds returned so I felt very happy to have seen anything at all!

2012DA14 ranks as one of the closest astronomical objects I’ve taken pictures of….only spaceweather like the aurora, noctilucent clouds or ISS are closer.  Later that evening I had a go at imaging something much more distant….in fact, it’s the furthest object I’ve ever tried to take a picture of!  Here it is:

3C273

It looks like a star but is really a quasar (and that’s why these objects were initially named Quasi-Stellar Objects) but it is actually the active nucleus of a very distant galaxy.  3C-273 is a mind crushing 2.4 billion light-years away in the constellation Virgo.  That’s about 1,000 times further away than the Andromeda Galaxy.  This quasar is the brightest in the entire sky and one of the nearest to us.  Quasars were more prevalent in the early universe and are an indication how violent the processes at work in the centres of galaxies can be!  Material is falling into a supermassive blackhole and getting shredded and heated in the surrounding accretion disk.  The energy released, in the form of light and other radiation is beamed outwards and we happen to be looking down the beam. Rather like seeing a lighthouse beam sweeping past us.

Checking on my astronomy software…I noticed that another asteroid, called Hera, was also in the frame.  Hera is a foreground object – just under 200 million miles away in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Advertisements

Picture of the Virgo Cluster

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Deepsky, Imaging

How many galaxies can you see in the following picture?

This was a single exposure of 2 minutes that I took through a 4 inch refractor.  It covers quite a large region of the sky – approximately 2.5×1.5 degrees.  In other words you could fit 5 full moons across the width of the image. I said it was big!  There are some obvious smudges in the picture – each is a distant island containing billions of stars.  This particular region of the sky is very rich in galaxies and they are collectively called the Virgo Cluster – named for the constellation Virgo, whose stars are in the foreground.

Here’s an annotated version of the image showing the locations of the galaxies.

I’ve overlaid the original image with a screenshot from SkyMap Pro showing the positions of the galaxies.  There are at least 17 of them visible in this single image.  The brightest galaxy in the picture is M87 and it’s actually the most massive member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies.  Our own Milky Way galaxy contains only 10% of the total number of stars in this galaxy.  Adding in the gas and dust which can’t be seen in the picture then M87 may actually contain 200 times as much mass as our Milky Way.  At the heart of M87 is a supermassive blackhole with a mass of several billion solar masses.  This truly is a monster!

The Virgo Cluster is situated about 55 million light years away.  It forms the heart of an even larger structure called the Virgo Supercluster – a cluster of clusters.  Our Milky Way galaxy is part of a small group (The Local Group) which includes the Andromeda Galaxy and a few dozen smaller galaxies.  The Local Group is an far flung outpost of the Virgo Supercluster and our Group is being dragged inexorably across the universe towards the Virgo Cluster.

The galaxies in the picture are between 9th and 11th magnitude; many of the brighter ones are easily visible through modest telescopes (4.5 inch and more).  From Northumberland they can be tough if you have Newcastle to the south!  Seeing the galaxies on a clear night is much easier than identifying which galaxy you’re actually looking at on a clear night.

About ten years ago a group of us spent an evening at the home of a friend – Dave Bendell – in Robin Hood’s Bay.  It was a gloriously clear April evening and my best memory of that night was of me and Dave navigating the Virgo Cluster with his 15 inch Dobsonian.  I was on the laptop starcharts shouting out instructions for Dave “up and bit….left a bit….and again! That should be NGC4425!”  We’d swap places briefly so I could take a look if there were smaller pairs or triplets of galaxies to be seen.  A task that might have been more efficient were it not for the plentiful supply of beer flowing during the evening 🙂  An unforgettable night of astronomy and a great memory of Dave, who passed away a year later.

Orion star hop!

Posted: February 11, 2012 in Constellations, Deepsky, NB75, Observing
Tags:

The bright star pattern of Orion is a great place to begin navigating the sky at this time of the year.  Orion is easy enough to find; face south and look for three bright stars a straight line.  Those stars mark Orion’s Belt and is the centre of the constellation.

If you can find the stars of Orion then you can use the shape to find other interesting stuff in the sky.  For example, you can hop from the three Belt stars to a few other things.

Follow the line from the stars down towards the horizon and you spot the brilliantly twinkling star called Sirius.  This is actually the brightest star in the sky (and one the nearest to us).  Sirius is a bit more massive than the Sun and this translates to it putting out more that 25 times as much energy as the Sun does. It is only outshone in the night sky by the planets Venus, Jupiter and occasionally Mars.  From the UK it never gets particularly high in the sky and so its light has to pass through the atmosphere at a shallow angle.  This causes it to twinkle violently and flash different colours of the rainbow.  This can make for some interesting pictures!

Following the Belt stars upwards will bring you to a bright orange star called Aldebaran which seems to be part of a V-formation of fainter stars around it.   Aldebaran is an old orang giant star about 65 light years away.  It’s the kind of bloated star that our Sun will evolve into when the nuclear fuel runs out in five or six billion years time.  Although Aldebaran seems to be embedded in the faint scattering of stars around it – this is an illusion.  The Hyades star cluster is more than twice as distant as Aldebaran.  This means we are closer to Aldebaran than it is to the stars that seem to be next to it in the sky!  Binoculars give a great view of Aldebaran and the Hyades cluster.

Continue that line from Orion up a bit further up in the same direction and you’ll arrive at the Pleaides star cluster (also called The Seven Sisters on account of how keen sighted people claim to be able to see seven stars….I can count five).  Astronomers give it the somewhat less romantic name M45.  The Pleaides are even more remote than the Hyades – about three times further away.  Here’s a picture Malcolm Robinson took of the cluster a couple of years ago:

The purpose of learning to hop from star to star is to help build up your familiarity with the night sky.  And it’s also useful for tracking down really faint fuzzy objects like nebulas and star clusters.  Here’s a nice example for those of you with binoculars or telescopes using what you’re seen so far.  There’s an nice little cluster of stars, called M41, in the constellation Canis Major (the Great Dog).  It’s near the star Sirius so we’ll use that to hop to M41.

So find Sirius, with binoculars or telescope and move down and slightly to the right.  M41 should jump out in your field of view with binoculars.  Look for those fainter stars to the south of Sirius to help you if you need it.

Here’s a simulated view of the cluster at low magnification (about 40x):

M41 is on the fringe of naked eye visibility.  Although it is best seen with a telescope there are suggestions it was seen by Aristotle in the 4th century BC.  It’s a scattering of about a hundred stars covering an area bigger than the full moon.  Many telescopic observers report seeing long chains of stars radiating away from the centre of cluster where a brighter orange giant star is found.  M41 is a typical example of the star clusters found throughout the Milky Way arching across the winter sky from northern to southern horizon.

More soon…

NASTRO Binocular 75

Posted: November 13, 2011 in Deepsky, NASTRO, NB75, Observing

This post is a follow up to the presentation I gave at the NASTRO meeting last Thursday.

The NASTRO Binocular 75 (NB75) is an observing list that I compiled nearly 10 years ago.  There are lots of lists or catalogues that are familiar to amateur astronomers.  The Messier and Caldwell catalogues are famous examples.  My reasons for drawing up a new list were:

  • I wanted an observing list I could complete; several Messier objects aren’t visible from Northumberland. No closure!
  • As Training Officer at NASTRO, I wanted a list of bright objects potentially visible with binoculars that members could use to hone their observing skills (like reading star charts, or using astronomy software as well as star hopping)
  • Knowing about more objects to track down will add variety.  I’ve seen so many people revisiting the same dozen or so objects in the night sky because they can’t find (or don’t know about) anything else that they can see.
  • It was fun to do.
There are very few current members of NASTRO who saw the list in its first form so I feel I can put it out again.  Also, with social networking more familiar to people these days, then hopefully some degree of collaboration between local astronomers will be possible.
I’ve no doubt that anyone undertaking the list will become totally familiar with the night sky by the time they’ve tracked down the 75th object.
So, without further ado, here is the list of all 75 objects.

ID

Name Class Con RA Dec

Mag

Size

Best Difficulty

1

M 31 Gal And 00h43m25.9s +41°20’19”

4.3

2.6°x 1.1°

obvious

2

ET Cluster Open Cas 01h20m23.8s +58°21’12”

5.1

20.0′

obvious

3

M 103 Open Cas 01h34m14.6s +60°42’53”

6.9

5.0′

obvious

4

M 33 Gal Tri 01h34m33.6s +30°43’28”

6.4

61.7’x 36.3′

easy

5

Collinder 463 Open Cas 01h46m48.8s +71°52’23”

5.8

57.0′

easy

6

NGC 663 Open Cas 01h47m02.4s +61°17’53”

6.4

14.0′

obvious

7

NGC 752 Open And 01h58m26.3s +37°50’46”

6.6

75.0′

detectable

8

Muscle Man Cluster Open Cas 02h15m38.5s +59°32’35”

4.4

60.0′

obvious

9

Perseus Double Cluster Open Per 02h19m54.3s +57°11’08”

4.3

18.0′

obvious

10

M 34 Open Per 02h42m54.1s +42°48’52”

5.8

35.0′

easy

11

Collinder 33 Open Cas 03h00m20.0s +60°26’52”

5.9

39.0′

easy

12

Collinder 39 Open Per 03h25m13.6s +49°54’16”

2.3

5.0°

easy

13

M 45 Open Tau 03h47m45.0s +24°09’16”

1.5

120.0′

obvious

14

Kemble’s Cascade (& NGC 1502) Open Cam 04h08m57.8s +62°21’45”

4.1

8.0′

obvious

15

NGC 1528 Open Per 04h16m20.7s +51°14’39”

6.4

16.0′

obvious

16

NGC 1545 Open Per 04h21m54.3s +50°16’51”

4.6

18.0′

obvious

17

Hyades Open Tau 04h27m37.0s +15°53’38”

0.8

5.5°

obvious

18

NGC 1647 Open Tau 04h46m39.1s +19°08’12”

6.2

40.0′

easy

19

NGC 1746 Open Tau 05h04m35.7s +23°47’10”

6.1

42.0′

easy

20

M 38 Open Aur 05h29m30.5s +35°51’23”

6.8

20.0′

easy

21

NGC 1981 Open Ori 05h35m46.3s -04°25’24”

4.2

28.0′

obvious

22

Collinder 69 Open Ori 05h35m47.4s +09°56’27”

2.8

70.0′

obvious

23

M 42 Neb Ori 05h35m55.0s -05°22’30”

4

40.0’x 20.0′

obvious

24

NGC 1977 Neb Ori 05h35m55.2s -04°50’30”

7

20.0′

difficult

25

Orion’s Belt Open Ori 05h36m08.2s -01°05’31”

0.6

2.3°

obvious

26

M 36 Open Aur 05h37m07.7s +34°08’45”

6.5

10.0′

obvious

27

M 37 Open Aur 05h53m07.0s +32°33’16”

6.2

14.0′

obvious

28

37 Cluster Open Ori 06h09m06.5s +13°57’44”

7

5.0′

obvious

29

M 35 Open Gem 06h09m45.8s +24°20’47”

5.6

25.0′

obvious

30

NGC 2175 Open Ori 06h10m23.5s +20°29’00”

6.8

22.0′

easy

31

NGC 2232 Open Mon 06h27m52.0s -04°45’55”

4.2

53.0′

obvious

32

NGC 2244 Open Mon 06h32m34.7s +04°55’58”

5.2

29.0′

obvious

33

NGC 2264 Open Mon 06h41m39.1s +09°52’59”

4.1

39.0′

obvious

34

M 41 Open CMa 06h46m33.3s -20°46’05”

5

39.0′

easy

35

NGC 2281 Open Aur 06h49m09.3s +41°03’42”

7.2

25.0′

easy

36

NGC 2301 Open Mon 06h52m23.3s +00°26’44”

6.3

14.0′

obvious

37

M 50 Open Mon 07h03m17.9s -08°24’01”

7.2

14.0′

easy

38

M 47 Open Pup 07h37m09.2s -14°30’32”

4.3

25.0′

obvious

39

M 46 Open Pup 07h42m20.1s -14°50’13”

6.6

20.0′

easy

40

M 48 Open Hya 08h14m19.4s -05°47’09”

5.5

30.0′

easy

41

M 44 Open Cnc 08h41m06.1s +19°37’19”

3.9

70.0′

obvious

42

M 67 Open Cnc 08h51m58.1s +11°45’14”

7.4

25.0′

detectable

43

M 81 Gal UMa 09h56m31.5s +69°00’09”

7.8

21.9’x 10.5′

easy

44

Collinder 256 Open Com 12h25m41.4s +26°01’57”

2.9

120.0′

obvious

45

Mizar DVar UMa 13h24m22.6s +54°51’39”

2.1

obvious

46

M 3 Glob CVn 13h42m43.2s +28°19’04”

6.3

18.0′

easy

47

M 5 Glob Ser 15h19m09.6s +02°02’30”

5.7

23.0′

easy

48

M 13 Glob Her 16h42m05.5s +36°26’25”

5.8

20.0′

obvious

49

M 12 Glob Oph 16h47m50.7s -01°57’56”

6.1

16.0′

easy

50

M 10 Glob Oph 16h57m46.3s -04°06’59”

6.6

20.0′

easy

51

M 92 Glob Her 17h17m27.8s +43°07’40”

6.5

14.0′

obvious

52

IC 4665 Open Oph 17h46m52.7s +05°42’55”

5.3

70.0′

easy

53

M 23 Open Sgr 17h57m45.9s -18°59’05”

5.9

29.0′

easy

54

Collinder 359 Open Oph 18h01m41.5s +02°54’10”

3

4.0°

easy

55

M 20 Neb Sgr 18h03m05.2s -22°59’07”

6.3

16.0’x 9.0′

challenging

56

M 8 Neb Sgr 18h04m45.6s -24°23’07”

5

17.0’x 15.0′

easy

57

M 24 Open Sgr 18h19m07.8s -18°24’01”

11.1

6.0′

challenging

58

M 16 Neb Ser 18h19m28.8s -13°48’45”

6

9.0’x 4.0′

difficult

59

M 17 Neb Sgr 18h21m29.1s -16°10’34”

6

11.0′

difficult

60

NGC 6633 Open Oph 18h27m49.6s +06°31’08”

5.6

20.0′

obvious

61

M 25 Open Sgr 18h32m29.0s -19°06’23”

6.2

29.0′

easy

62

M 22 Glob Sgr 18h37m07.5s -23°53’32”

5.2

32.0′

easy

63

Epsilon Lyrae (Double Double) Doub Lyr 18h44m43.4s +39°41’16”

4.7

obvious

64

M 11 Open Sct 18h51m43.3s -06°15’12”

6.1

32.0′

easy

65

Collinder 399 Open Vul 19h25m55.1s +20°12’42”

4.8

89.0′

easy

66

M 27 PNe Vul 20h00m07.3s +22°45’32”

7.3

8.0′

obvious

67

NGC 6871 Open Cyg 20h06m25.9s +35°49’01”

5.8

29.0′

obvious

68

NGC 7039 Open Cyg 21h11m14.2s +45°40’20”

6.8

14.0′

obvious

69

M 15 Glob Peg 21h30m33.3s +12°13’24”

6.3

18.0′

easy

70

M 39 Open Cyg 21h32m14.6s +48°29’35”

5.3

29.0′

obvious

71

M 2 Glob Aqr 21h34m04.6s -00°46’02”

6.6

16.0′

easy

72

Garnet Star DVar Cep 21h43m53.2s +58°50’31”

4.3

obvious

73

NGC 7243 Open Lac 22h15m37.5s +49°57’52”

6.7

29.0′

easy

74

M 52 Open Cas 23h25m22.5s +61°39’55”

8.2

15.0′

easy

75

NGC 7686 Open And 23h30m43.2s +49°12’18”

5.6

14.0′

obvious

I compiled the list using SkyTools 3.  It’s ordered by Right Ascension, which approximately means that the objects at the top of the list were well placed in the sky at midnight at the start of Autumn.  So now, near the middle of November, it should be possible to track down the first 15 or 20 objects before late evening.

The list contains a number of different types of object:

Here is the 65th entry in the NB75 list – The Coathanger.

Collinder 399 in the constellation Vulpecula. Popularly known as the Coathanger. Image by Malcolm Robinson.

The response from NASTRO members seemed enthusiastic.  The list is a starting point; each object has an interesting back story and will add a little (or a lot) to your picture of the universe.
I’ll discuss this more and add some more resources to support this soon.  Emma will be adding things to the main NASTRO website as well.

Autumn globular clusters

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Astrobites, Deepsky, NASTRO

Globular clusters are like cities of stars scattered in and around the Milky Way.  Here’s a good example:

Messier 2; a globular cluster in Aquarius

They tend to be compact and nearly spherical and can contain hundreds of thousands of stars.  They’re found in a great halo surrounding the Galaxy, following orbits around the centre.  Harlow Shapley used the observed asymmetry in the distribution of globular clusters around the sky as evidence that the Sun was located some way from the centre of the Milky Way.  See the graphic here.  This continued the process of demoting the significance of the Earth’s location in the universe.

The stars of globular clusters are low mass and so have low luminosity (less than the Sun).  But with stars packed so closely together (about a tenth of light-year in the dense central regions) it’s thought that collisions and mergers occasionally take place.  Two low mass stars might merge and produce a higher mass star shining much more brightly.  Such stars are observed within globular clusters and they’re called blue stragglers by astronomers.  Blue stragglers may also form in a less violent manner:  mass transfer from one star in a binary system to another can also produce them.

There are plenty of globular clusters to see in the autumn night sky.  Most novice astronomers will go for the easy to find bright examples such as M13 and M92 in Hercules, or M15 in Pegasus.  Unfortunately, the two brightest globular clusters are not visible from the UK!  Omega Centauri contains millions of stars (and may actually be the core of a dwarf galaxy) and 47 Tucanae are so bright they were misclassified as stars by early uranographers, but are best seen from south of the equator.

If you’re a bit more experienced at star hopping why not try for M2 in Aquarius (pictured above) or if you want a real challenge, then go for M30 – skirting the southern horizon in Capricornus – binoculars at least will be required.  Very difficult if Newcastle (or any big town or city) is to your south.  See the map below for the approximate location.

Looking south in late October at about 8.30pm (BST).

I just noticed that M15, M2 and M30 fall approximately on a straight line….that might make it easier to locate them.  Possible targets for the NASTRO Halloweeen Star Camp at Barrowburn next weekend!?

Imaging at the observatory

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Deepsky, Imaging, NASTRO, Planets

NASTRO have had an observatory for a few years but it’s not quite fully functional for imaging.  The observatory ‘scope, a 14 inch Meade LX200 sits on a wedge which is only approximately aligned with north.  At observing sessions where it is being used visually the telescope will track objects happily without the observer noticing anything.  But when cameras and CCDs are attached and long exposures are needed….well, the problems become evident.  Exposures of several seconds or more with a CCD or 30 seconds with a camera at prime focus result in sausage shaped stars.

Still, some nice images can be got with short exposures and some image processing to reduce the blur.  Here are the results of a Saturday night spent imaging and Sunday morning processing the results!

First up, Messier 13, a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules.  It’s a system of about 300,000 stars at a distance of 25,000 light-years.

This is a single image (ISO1600, 30s) taken with the Nikon D80 at prime focus of the 14″ Meade LX200.  The original image was motion blurred because of the poor tracking of the telescope….so I de-blurred it with some algorithms I coded on my PhD then removed the noise with wavelets.

Next up the planet Uranus.  I was hoping to get some pictures of the moons as well as the planet but being restricted to short exposures I wasn’t convinced I’d see them.

So I got some of the moons.  Notice how they’re in a line above and below the planet?  The moons orbit in the equatorial plane of Uranus, showing that the planet is tipped over (or inclined at more than 90 degrees to its orbit as an astronomer would say).   The planet has been overexposed in order to image the moons, which are about 1500 times fainter.  This is a stack of three images (ISO1250, about 125s in total) with the Nikon D80 at prime focus of the 14″ Meade LX200. Post processed in Registax and Gimp.

The planet Jupiter had cleared the walls of the observatory by 9pm.  My plan was to hook up the Meade DSI-II and try to improve on the pictures I got last year.  But when it came to plugging in the DSI there was no response from the laptop; either the USB drivers were messed up or the actual cable was dodgy.  Either way, I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t get the DSI talking to the laptop – no idea why, it worked last time I used it.  The seeing was great and I could’ve got some much better images of Jupiter with it.  So reverting to the Nikon at prime focus, this is what I got:

The moon to the right was Io. The Great Red Spot is on the southern equatorial belt towards the left. It was pretty easy to see through the eyepiece! And so was the dark spot in the northern equatorial belt.  Technical bit: stack of about 90 images (ISO1250, 1/400s) with the Nikon D80 at prime focus of the 14″ Meade LX200. Processed with Registax 6.

Finally, with the moon clearing the observatory wall I tried for some images of craters along the terminator.  Only a small section of the moon was visible in the camera frame at any one time so I took lots of pictures to possibly make a mosaic later on.

This is the moon 18.4 days after new moon. The phase was 87% and the moon was 399,506 km from Earth.  Click to embiggen! This mosaic of images was stitched together with Microsoft ICE. Each image (ISO400, 1/400s) was taken at prime focus of the 14″ Meade LX200 with a Nikon D80. A little bit of wavelet sharpening was applied in GIMP.

All in all, not a bad haul and some useful perfomance indicators for the observatory.

 

Along the Great Rift

Posted: October 14, 2011 in Astrobites, Comets, Deepsky

This is a great time of the year to get to know the Milky Way.  Get away from urban street lighting you’ll see this pale band of light formed from the accumulated glow of millions of distant stars.  It flows right overhead and down towards the southwest horizon and it seems to branch into two streams as it winds through the Summer Triangle.

The two streams of stars are divided by the a dark feature called the Great Rift.  A couple of weeks ago Malcolm Robinson took some pictures of the northern section of the Great Rift (commonly called the Cygnus Rift).

Actually, this is the result of stacking 16 images of the same part of the sky; the result is 4 times better than taking one picture!  The computer counted the number of stars in this picture and found more than 20 thousand.  Two stars from the Summer Triangle are visible here.  The bright star near the top-right is Vega, in Lyra and the bright one near the bottom left is Altair in Aquila.

Also visible in this picture are star clusters (tiny concentrations of stars), bright nebulae (reddish coloured patches) and the many dark dust clouds making up the Rift.

I made an annotated version of the image showing the constellations as well.  Surprisingly Malcolm also caught a comet in the picture!

Let’s take a quick tour of some of these objects.

First the Great Rift itself.  It’s made from numerous overlapping clouds of gas and dust between us and the distant haze of stars of the Milky Way.  The clouds are relatively nearby – just a few hundred light years.  Astronomers estimate that the total mass of these dark clouds is about one million times the mass of the Sun.  Because that mass is distributed over huge volumes of the space, the density of the clouds is low – you get a hundred or maybe a thousand tiny dust grains per cubic centimetre.  Sounds like a lot but these dust grains are small: think particles of smoke!

Several star clusters can be seen in Malcolm’s image.  Star clusters come in two kinds: open and globular.  It’s common to find open clusters like NGC6940 and NGC6885 along the Milky Way. They condense out of giant molecular clouds like those making up the Great Rift.  On the other hand, globular clusters, like M71, tend to be found in the halo of the galaxy – above or below the disk – and so away from the Milky Way in the sky.  Globular Clusters are more compact and broadly spherical.  They orbit centre of the galaxy and so they do occasionally pass through the plane.  M71 is perhaps a little unusual.  The stars are more loosely packed and astronomers were not sure whether this was actually a very densely populated open cluster until fairly recently.

Several types of nebula are visible.  One of the biggest planetary nebulae in the sky shows up (just: you can see it more clearly by zooming into the big version of the picture).  I’m referring to M27 – the Dumbbell Nebula.  This is an expanding shell of gas blown outwards when the central star changed from a red giant to a white dwarf.  There are pinkish regions towards the top of the picture; these are glowing clouds of partially ionized hydrogen – heated by the ultraviolet radiation from stars nearby.  Astronomers call these HII regions (spoken as “H2 regions”).  The large expanse of sky covered by the Veil Nebula is just about visible at top-right.  The Veil Nebula is the expanding wreckage of supernova which exploded between five and seven thousand years ago.  It occupies an area of sky 36 times greater than the Full Moon!

Finally, in the foreground and virtually in the back garden, a comet was captured.  It’s Comet Garradd.  Currently a binocular object and tracking westwards through Hercules, the comet will continue to get brighter over the winter and will reach peak brightness in February next year.

All this AND a celestial coathanger…!