Astro & Nighttime Photography

  
  When a Chicken is Running Across the Sky
February 27, 2024

The extensive constellation Centaur can be found in the southern sky. It extends far toward the southern celestial pole, ending with the star Lambda Centauri, which is clearly visible to the naked eye (magnitude 3.1). An interstellar nebula, which was discovered in 1094 by the American astronomer Royal Harwood Frost, expands around this star. It is called the »Running Chicken Nebula« because some observers claim to have seen one in the brightest parts of the nebula. However, I cannot understand this interpretation. While Lambda Centauri is only 470 light-years away from us, the nebula complex lies in the background. Its distance is estimated at almost 6,000 light years! The so-called »Bok globules«, small, dark wisps of nebula in which new stars often form, are exciting even for professionals. The most famous of these are the »Thackeray’s Globules«, named after a astronomer from South Africa, who discovered them in the 1950s.


The bright star below the center of the image is Lambda Centauri. Filament-like nebula structures around it have the catalog designation IC 2944. The larger and brighter portion of nebula to the left below it is called IC 2948. A small, three-parted nebula to the right of Lamda Centauri, at almost the same image height, is IC 2872. At the top of the image you may see the open star cluster NGC 3766. With good eyesight, this star cluster can be seen on the night sky without optical aids.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 13, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 30x 300 sec. each
2x2 Binning
Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop



New Book by Stefan Seip
  Star Factory at Work
February 21, 2024

The »Corona Australis Molecular Cloud« is one of the closest star-forming regions in the Milky Way. It is found in the sky in the constellation Southern Crown (Corona australis) and is about 430 light-years away. The star formation process is in full swing there. The center is built by the »Coronet Cluster«, a star cluster made up of young and hot stars. Its stars have only been shining for around 500,000 to two million years. It is embedded in an environment of gigantic clouds of dust, molecules and gas. The professional astronomers have identified a number of →Herbig-Haro objects, i.e. protostars whose gas, ejected at extremely high speed, collides with the dust clouds and produces shock waves.


The magnificent molecular cloud stretches between the stars Eta and Gamma Coronae australis. Included are, among others, the nebula regions with the catalog numbers NGC 6727, NGC 6726, 6729, and IC 4812. The globular cluster at the top left is called NGC 6723 and is 66 times as far away, almost 30,000 light years. It is already in the area of the constellation Sagittarius. Can you see the tiny galaxy on the left edge of the picture, halfway up the picture? It is PGC 62700 at a distance of 220 million light years!


Crop from the photo above, to take a closer look at the Herbig-Haro object HH 100/Bernes 158. It is to the left of the center of the image with a small dark cloud in the background..
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 21/22, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 15x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning
Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  Celestial Snakes
February 15, 2024

The constellation »Serpent Bearer« (Ophiuchus) is home to a small, S-shaped dark nebula called the Snake Nebula, some 650 light years away. But the constellation Serpent Bearer is not named after this nebula. It lies within the summer Milky Way. That's why the image is filled with countless stars.The Snake Nebula and the other dark nebulae are interstellar dust masses and molecular clouds that swallow up the light from the stars behind them.


The Snake Nebula (Barnard 72) is clearly visible below the center of the image. The brightest star in the photo below the Snake Nebula to the left is »44 Ophiuchi«, which is 4.15 magnitudes bright and clearly visible to the naked eye.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 21, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 10x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning
Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  Valentine's Sun
February 14, 2024

On today's Valentin's Day the sun is full of spots. About every eleven years solar activity is particularly high, which means there are more sunspots. It's such a high phase right now. They get consecutive numbers. The large spot on the right edge of the sun, for example, has the number 3576. The spots are caused by abnormalities in the sun's magnetic field. The surface of the photosphere cools at those points where a magnetic field line penetrates the surface. While the surface is about 5770 degrees hot, the sunspots are about 1500 degrees cooler.


On a cloudy day I took advantage of a small gap in the clouds to take this photo. In addition to the sunspots, brighter areas, so-called faculae, can be seen. The granulation causes the fine structuring of the surface. Also noticeable ist the limb darkening.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
February 14, 2024
Location
Stuttgart, Germany
Camera
Nikon Z8
Optics
Nikkor 600mm/4 FL ED
Teleconverter TC-20E III
AstroSolar ND 3.8
Exposure
1/2000 sec., F/11, ISO 64
Processing
Photoshop
  The Blue Horsehead
February 8, 2024

The classic Horsehead Nebula is a characteristically shaped dark cloud in the constellation Orion. However, here pictured is the »Blue Horsehead Nebula«, a reflection nebula in the constellation Scorpius. It consists of interstellar molecular and dust clouds, which are mainly illuminated by the star »Nu Scorpii«. Nu Scorpii, the brightest star in the image, emitting high-energy blue light due to its high surface temperature. That star is about 450 light-years away from us, not quite as far away as the Blue Horsehead Nebula (520 light-years). This celestial animal portrait was discovered in 1895 by Edward Barnard, an American astronomer considered one of the pioneers of astrophotography.


The Blue Horsehead Nebula (IC 4592) is embedded in the edge of the star-rich southern Milky Way. Can you recognize the horse's head? Or are you more likely to see the head of another animal? Art enthusiasts might even think of the Blue Rider (»Der Blaue Reiter«), a designation by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc for their exhibition and publication activities, first published in 1912.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 14, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RG, 10x 300 sec. each
B, 15x 300 sec.
2x2 Binning
Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  Birds in the Sky
January 31, 2024

Yes, well, birds can also be seen in the sky. However, here we are talking about two nebulae that were named after bird species: the Eagle Nebula (in the photo below) in the constellation Serpent and the Swan Nebula (in the picture above) in the constellation Sagittarius, which is also called the Omega Nebula. Both are huge clouds of hydrogen gas that are made to glow by high-energy UV light from hot stars. The Eagle Nebula is said to be 7,000 light-years away from Earth and the Swan Nebula 5-6,000 light-years. Both are so large that even the super-fast light takes decades to pass through one of the two nebulae. A detailed image of the Eagle Nebula became famous in 1995 when the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the »Pillars of Creation« in unprecedented clarity.


Both the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) and the Swan Nebula (Messier 17) are embedded in the bright band of the summer Milky Way. Even with binoculars they can be seen as small, colorless foggy spots. And through a small telescope, some details, such as dark nebulae structures, are visible. The names Eagle, Swan and Omega indeed come from the visual impression when looking through the eyepiece of a telescope.


Crop from the photo above (Messier 16). The »Pillars of Creation« are right in the middle of the frame.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 16/17, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 15x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning
Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  Dusty Seahorse
January 26, 2024

There are more than 1,800 objects listed in the Lynds' Dark Nebula catalog (LDN). Shown in this photo are LDN 204, LDN 191 and LDN 234 in the constellation Ophiuchus. The brightest star in the field is »20 Oph« with a magnitude of 4.6. With a little imagination, you may see various shapes in the dark clouds of interstellar dust and gas, such as the head of a seahorse near 20 Ophiuchi. However, the name "Seahorse Nebula" is given to another object: LDN 1082 in the constellation Cepheus.


Especially in the galactic plane of our Milky Way
, large amounts of cold gas and dust can be found. If they are neither illuminated by bright stars nor stimulated to glow by hot stars, they are called »Dark Nebulae«. They are still visible if they are silhouetted against a brighter background. Here it is the hydrogen nebula SH2-27 that provide the necessary contrast.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 23/24, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
Lum, 20x 600 sec.
1x1 Binning
RGB, 14x 300 sec. each
2x2 Binning
Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  10,000,000 Stars
January 25, 2024

The globular star cluster »Omega Centauri« is a globular star cluster. And by far the largest and most impressive of our Milky Way. It is named after a star in the Centaur constellation because only the bright center can be seen with the naked eye, giving the impression of a star. Including the fainter outer regions, it has almost twice the diameter of the full moon! Ten million stars are gathered in a space of about 150 light years in diameter. Possibly Omega Centauri is a dwarf galaxy instead of a globular cluster.


More than 17 thousand light-years away is Omega Centauri (NGC 5139). At first it was classified as a star. Edmund Halley described it as a nebula in 1677, before the British astronomer John Herschel revealed its true nature in the 1830s.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 15, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 10x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning (cropped)

Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  »Mrs. Aurora«
January 22, 2024

One of the most impressive phenomena in the night sky are the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis). It is easy to see on clear nights in the winter months at around 70 degrees latitude. Low temperatures of -30°C and well below are a challenge for people and cameras. Northern lights arise when particles from the solar wind penetrate the Earth's atmosphere along magnetic field lines and react with oxygen and nitrogen. The atoms absorb the energy first and then release it again as light (photons).


The night of January 20-21, 2024 in Finnish Lapland was cristal clear and starry, while the aurora activity left much to be desired. Fortunately a brief refreshment of the solar wind, a so-called substorm, made for a show worth seeing. The bright moon light illuminates the landscape and is responsible for the blue sky color.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
January 20, 2024
Location
Finnish Lapland
Camera
Hasselblad X2D 100C
Optics
Hasselblad XCD 4/21mm
Exposure
3 sec.
Processing
Photoshop
  The »Radio Galaxy«
January 22, 2024

The most powerful radio source in the sky is the Andromeda Galaxy, followed by a supernova remnant in the constellation Cassiopeia. The third brightest radio source is »Centaurus A«, the galaxy in the constellation Centaur pictured here. The reason for the radio radiation is an active galactic nucleus (supermassive black hole, type →Seyfert 2). It can be best observed from the southern hemisphere. There are 15 million light years between us.


Centaurus A (NGC 5128) was discovered around two hundred years ago, in 1826. There is still debate about whether it belongs to the elliptical or lenticular galaxies. The curved band of dust across the galaxy is characteristic.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 22, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 15x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning (cropped)

Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  The »Eye of Sauron«
January 13, 2024

This planetary nebula is better known as the »Helix Nebula«, located in the constellation Aquarius. The name »planetary nebula« is misleading: planets are not involved here. Rather, it is a dying star at the end of its life that is getting rid of its gas shells.


The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) is about 650 light-years away from us and has a diameter of at least 2.5 light-years.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 17/18, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 14x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning (cropped)

Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  The Chromosphere of the Sun
January 13, 2024

Above the photosphere of the sun, which provides us with light and heat, is the so-called chromosphere located. It can be observed using special filters that only allow light with a wavelength of 656.3 nanometers to pass through. Protuberances become visible at the edge and numerous structures on the sun's surface.



Sun with activity zones. The interior of the sun's disk is shown inverted, so sunspots appear white.

   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
January 12, 2024
Location
Stuttgart
Camera
Nikon Zf
Optics
AP Traveler 105/610
Coronado SM90/BF30

Exposure
1/2000 + 1/125 sec.
Processing
Photoshop
  The »Orion Nebula«
January 11, 2024

The Orion Nebula is a huge star-forming region within the Milky Way. It can even be seen with the naked eye in the winter starry sky, some 1344 light years away. My camera captured the light that travelled through space since the early Middle Ages.


The Orion Nebula complex (Messier 42), accompanied by »Marian's Nebula« (Messier 43) and the »Running Man Nebula« (NGC 1977).
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
January 10, 2024
Location
Stuttgart
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 10x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning

Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
  The »Ptolemy Cluster«
January 10, 2024

Round about one hundred stars are forming the open star cluster in the constellation Scorpius in a distance of 800 light years. At the same time that this star cluster was formed, dinosaurs became the dominant species on Earth.


The »Ptolemy Star Cluster« (Messier 7, NGC 6475) is embedded in countless stars of the Milky Way.
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 19, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 10x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning

Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop

  Lagoon, Trifid and Friends
January 7, 2024

The gas, reflection and dark nebulae in the constellation Sagittarius are magnificent:


Prominent are the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) at the bottom left and the Trifid Nebula (Messier 20) at the bottom right.


Crop from the photo above (Messier 8).
   


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IMAGE DATA

Date
July 16, 2023
Location
Namibia, Hakos
Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
Optics
Askar APO Pro AP 90/500
Exposure
RGB, 16x 300 sec. each
1x1 Binning

Processing
PixInsight, Photoshop
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