Deep Sky

This grand design spiral galaxy lies about 12 million light years away in the constellation Ursa Major, making it one of the closest to the Milky Way. It contains an estimated 250 billion stars, perhaps half the number of our own galaxy.

Telescope: 8" Vixen VC200L

Camera: SBIG ST8300 at -15C

Exposure: 90 min Luminescence, ~45 min RGB, ~4 hours total

This image was featured on BBC2's Stargazing Live 2013.

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy

This spectacular face-on spiral galaxy lies about 23 million light years away. It is interacting gravitationally with its companion galaxy NGC 5195, seen immediately below. This has enhanced the spiral structure of M51 and distorted NGC 5195, producing a tidal stream of stars and dust.

Telescope: 8" Vixen VC200L

Camera: SBIG ST8300

Exposure: ~1 hour

The Orion Nebula is the closest region of active star formation; a massive cloud of gas and dust, it is collapsing under its own gravity. Stars never form individually, as only large molecular clouds of several hundred solar masses are big enough to collapse. Our own Sun would have formed in a similar nebula about 4.6 billion years ago. The nebula is visible to the naked eye as a faint fuzzy patch below Orion's belt, the middle "star" of Orion's sword. Within about 100,000 years the remaining gas will be dispersed by the radiation from the newly formed stars, leaving behind a young open cluster, similar to the Pleiades.

Telescope: 120mm Skywatcher ED refractor

Camera: Canon EOS 450D

Exposure: ~1 hour at ISO 800

 

This large nebula has twice the apparent diameter of the full Moon. It is a site of recent star formation and is illuminated by the young cluster of stars in the centre.

Telescope: Altair Astro 80mm EDT refractor

Camera: modded Canon EOS 1100D

Exposure: 55 minutes

 

This group of galaxies can be found in the constellation Virgo, forming part of the larger Virgo Cluster. The most prominent are M84 and M86 in the centre and the giant elliptical galaxy M87 at the lower left of the image.

Telescope: Altair Astro 80mm EDT refractor

Camera: modded Canon EOS 1100D

Exposure: 42 minutes

 

Roughly 10,000 light years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia, the Pacman Nebula (NGC 281) is largely composed of hydrogen gas, ionised by the intense UV radiation from the newly formed starts at its core.

Telescope: 8" Vixen VC200L

Camera: SBIG ST8300 through Hydrogen Alpha filter

Exposure: ~40 minutes

 

M45 - The Pleiades

The Pleiades, also known as The Seven Sisters, is a young open cluster of about 1,000 stars, which formed within the last 100 million years. Open clusters are weakly bound together by gravity, over time the individual stars will disperse throughout the Milky Way.

Telescopes: Meade ED80 & VC200L

Camera: SBIG ST8300

Exposure: 30 min (ED80) + 45 min (VC200L)

 

M13 contains about 300,000 stars, tightly bound together gravitationaly. Unlike smaller open clusters, they are dense enough to retain their stars. Globular clusters are typically very old, as the giant clouds of gas required for their formation were far more abundant in the early universe. At an estimated 11.6 billion years old, the cluster formed a mere 2 billion years after the Big Bang.

Telescope: SW 120ED

Camera: Nikon D3200

Exposure: 42 min (unguided) at ISO 800

 

The Eskimo Nebula

The Eskimo Nebula is an example of a so-called planetary nebula, a star at the end of its life in the process of shedding its outer layers. The blue colour is from an abundance of oxygen. Stars are mainly composed of hydrogen and helium, but produce heavier elements over their lifetime.

Telescope: VC200L at F6.4

Camera: SBIG ST8300

Exposure: 45 min total

 

M27 - The Dumbell Nebula

The Dumbell Nebula, another example of a planetary nebula, lies in the constellation Vulpecula

Telescope: VC200L at F6.4

Camera: SBIG ST8300

Exposure: ???

 

M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy

The nearest large galaxy, at a distance of 2.5 million light years, Andromeda is expected to collide with the Milky Way in a few billion years, merging to form a giant elliptical galaxy.

Telescope: SW 120ED

Camera: Nikon D3200

Exposure: 24 min (unguided) at ISO 800

 

This widefield shot shows part of the constellation Cygnus. The brightest star visible towards the upper right is Deneb, a blue supergiant, with the North America Nebula directly above.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D

Exposure: ~10 min at ISO 1600

 

M91

This spiral galaxy has a particularly prominent bar and lies about 63 million light years away, in the Virgo cluster.

Telescope: VC200L at F6.4

Camera: SBIG ST8300

Exposure: 63 mins