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Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Featured Deep-Sky Object - IC 405 - Flaming Star Nebula

This Insight Observatory "Feature Deep-Sky Object" post highlights the emission/reflection nebula, IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula, located in the constellation of Auriga. On the evening of December 22, 2017, Insight Observatory's managing member and project developer, Michael Petrasko was remoted into their Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) system downloading data from a previous observing run to gather image data requested from users utilizing Insight Observatory's ATEO Public Image Request Form. The sky conditions were pristine and as Michael was wrapping up with his tasks, he figured; why not take advantage of the weather conditions and image an object he has never imaged or visually observed through a telescope before.

IC 405 (also known as the Flaming Star Nebula, SH 2-229, or Caldwell 31) imaged on the ATEO  by Michael Petrasko and processed with PixInsight 8.1 by Muir Evenden.
IC 405 (also known as the Flaming Star Nebula, SH 2-229, or Caldwell 31) imaged on the ATEO
by Michael Petrasko and processed with PixInsight 8.1 by Muir Evenden.

Browsing through the open-source planetarium software, Stellarium, Michael spotted a deep-sky object that was placed perfectly in the sky for imaging out in New Mexico where the remote telescope system resides. He then proceeded to acquire 10 images at 120 seconds each with the Luminance filter and 5 120-second exposures each with the Red, Green and Blue filters.

IC 405 shines at magnitude +6.0 and surrounds the irregular variable star AE Aurigae. It is also located near the emission nebula IC 410, the open clusters M38 and M36, and the K-class star Iota Aurigae. The nebula measures approximately 37.0' x 19.0', and lies about 1,500 light-years away from Earth. It is believed that the proper motion of the central star can be traced back to the Orion's Belt area. The nebula is about 5 light-years across.

Location of IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula as displayed on Stellarium.
Location of IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula as displayed on Stellarium.

The full resolution image of IC 405 can be viewed on Insight Observatory's Image Gallery. If you are interested in imaging deep-sky images like this using the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO), please visit the ATEO Image Request Page for more information.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Your New Telescope's First Targets: The Moon and More

The Moon is one celestial object that never fails to impress in even the most humble scope. It’s our nearest neighbor in space - big, bright, starkly bleak, and just a quarter million miles away. An amateur telescope and a good Moon map can keep you busy forever.

"Here are three crucial tips for getting started," advises Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.

See if you can identify these noteworthy features around the time of full Moon. Some of the most prominent craters display bright rays: splashes of impact debris. Image by Bob King.
See if you can identify these noteworthy features around the time of full Moon. Some of the most prominent craters display bright rays: splashes of impact debris. Image by Bob King.

The Moon is well-placed in the evening sky this week (December 25–31, 2017) as it waxes from first-quarter to gibbous toward full. It's full on the night of January 1st. But full Moon is actually the worst time for telescopic Moon viewing, because its full, directly sunlit face lacks the shadows that cast mountains and craters into sharp relief. The waxing and waning phases are better, especially for features along the terminator - the lunar sunrise or sunset line. Here you'll see lunar features standing out at their best. The terminator moves quite a bit from night to night, revealing new landscapes when the Moon is waxing and covering them when waning.

Read the full Article at  http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/what-to-see-with-your-new-telescope-3/
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Imaging Galaxies with the ATEO

Over the past few months, we have been putting the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO) through its paces to help us identify areas for improvement and to understand how far we can "push the envelope" on this system. Typically this entails measuring the performance on key areas like camera cooling, tracking and guiding, focusing accuracy, not to mention monitoring how our tiny little Raspberry Pi (which controls the whole thing!) performs...

NGC 1398 - Isolated barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Fornax. Image by Muir Evenden.
NGC 1398 - Isolated barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Fornax. Image by Muir Evenden.

The real fun part comes, however, when the results from our testing give us little surprises and reconfirm just how good an imaging platform the ATEO telescope really is. A case in point occurred about a week ago as we were testing the cooling capabilities of the FLI camera; after we got the camera down to -46° Celsius we decided to image a number of galaxies that were relatively low in the sky (< 30° above the horizon) for one single 15 minute exposure each... The only image reduction done was applying darks. As the few sample images from that session shown below attest to, we got some quite stunning images; aside from some slight guiding errors and potentially some focus improvements, we were quite pleased!

NGC 1232 - the Intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Eridanus. Image by Muir Evenden.
NGC 1232 - the Intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Eridanus. Image by Muir Evenden.

The wide field of this scope has also proven to be a real treat as well - it is fun to identify all the additional galaxies and other objects that appear in addition to our primary target. Who thought testing would be so much fun?
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