The Milky Way - Our Home
|Believe it or not you can actually get a wide angle view of our very own
galaxy. Earth is located about 2/3 of the way to the edge of the Milky Way galaxy.
Taking a picture of it is like photographing a mountain range when you're standing
on the first of its foothills. The shot is panoramic from one horizon to the other.
I was dumbfounded when I pointed my cheap low-light security camera skyward and got
this picture live on my TV.
M104 Sombrero Galaxy (NGC 4594)
|I did it! My first "real" galaxy. The LMC and the
SMC are just so big and irregular they "don't count", but M1O4? Wow. This
sucker is around 50 million light years away. It is about 140,000 light years
across. Its mass is nearly 1,000 billion suns. For a Canon 350D at prime focus
of a telescope this is a relatively easy target to capture (once you get it into the field
of view - that's the hard part). The field of view for an LXD-75 SN8 is about 1.6
degrees with the Canon 350D. A 20 second exposure will produce a bright (but small)
image on each frame. The galaxy has apparent dimensions of 9x4 arcseconds. The
image here was created by stacking several 20 second exposures and is the actual size
recorded but cropped out of the full sized frame. Aligned in MaxDSLR.
Processed in ImageReady. This image demonstrates why using mirror-lockup is
important. I didn't and you can see the effect if you look closely at the stars in
the larger (linked) image.
M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy
|Another one. Another galaxy! This one was captured under fine
seeing conditions. It was almost directly overhead, the air was dead calm, not a
hint of a breeze. The sky was dark and clear.
I find galaxies are hard targets.
Click the link because this one is a not-embarrasing image!
This image lets you see the star forming regions (nebulae) of another galaxy!
Full Frame (wide field context) click
NGC 253 Silver Coin Galaxy
NGC 253 Silver Coin (Sculptor)
One of the larger and brigher galaxies in the southern hemisphere.
|NGC 5128 Centaurus A is a bright galaxy (7.0) that responds well to just
60 secs exposure @ISO1600 in the Canon 350D. This galaxy is best known for its
colorful and irregular dust belt that has arisen as result of this galaxy having recently
'eaten' a dwarf galaxy. The blue rim around the dust belt is actually millions of
hot young stars that have been created as a result of the turbulence of this collision.
I went to an excellent talk recently at CAS and the cool dude 'Ralph' who spoke
described how two galaxies and their material can interact gravitationally, and yet the
chances of any stars actually colliding is almost zero.
Conclusion: Space is big, really big. And empty, really empty.
The Large Magellenic Cloud (The LMC)
|The LMC is a huge object in the sky. On a dark clear night in summer
in Australia it looks to the naked eye like a high dim cloud (a real one) and most
non-astronomers who even noticed it would think that's what it is. It is the largest
visible galaxy. The visible portion of it is 4 degrees wide (yes, 4 degrees) and is
pretty easy to photograph if it is high in the sky. If there's not too much light
pollution this object is easily viewed and photographed from ordinary suburbia.
The Small Magellenic Cloud (The SMC)
|Smaller but still occupying a huge chunk of our sky, for a galaxy, is the
nearby SMC which is quite a bit harder to see under suburban lighting. It too is
very visible once you know not to skip over those two large objects high in the southern
sky that look like clouds. Located nearby is the magnificent globular cluster