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Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Pleiades and Triangulum Galaxy

Fall is the time of year when a few deep-sky gems make their way into the night sky once again. The Pleiades, Messier 45 and the Triangulum Galaxy, Messier 33, are among the long list. The Pleiades are also well known to the unaided eye as the Seven Sisters. That is how many stars can only be seen in this open star cluster under dark skies. The image below taken on Insight Observatory's Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-1) displays many many more stars in the cluster.

M45 - The Pleiades imaged at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin on ATEO-1 by Insight Observatory.
M45 - The Pleiades imaged at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin on ATEO-1 by Insight Observatory. 

The cluster is dominated by hot blue and luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. A faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster (hence the alternative name Maia Nebula after the star Maia), but is now likely an unrelated foreground dust cloud in the interstellar medium, through which the stars are currently passing.

Computer simulations have shown that the Pleiades were probably formed from a compact configuration that resembled the Orion Nebula. Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood.

M33 - The Triangulum Galaxy imaged on ATEO-1 at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin by Insight Observatory.
M33 - The Triangulum Galaxy imaged on ATEO-1 at LRGB 600 sec, 2x2 bin by Insight Observatory.

The Triangulum Galaxy (also known as M33) that is about 3 million light-years away from Earth. While its mass is not well understood, one estimate puts it between 10 billion and 40 billion times the sun's mass, what is known is it's the third largest member of the Local Group or the galaxies that are near the Milky Way. Triangulum also has a small satellite galaxy of its own, called the Pisces Dwarf Galaxy.

Under dark sky conditions, M33 is just barely visible with the naked eye in the constellation Triangulum, just west of Andromeda and Pisces.
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Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Andromeda Galaxy Revisited and NGC 6822

Now that the ATEO Portal is complete and in full use for accessing imaging data on ATEO-1, we decided to revisit an old friend... M31, The Andromeda Galaxy. It was just a little over a year ago that we acquired our first image of our closest galactic neighbor. Insight's first image of M31 was a 60-second Luminance image taken remotely with TheSkyX software on the Raspberry Pi that controls the 16" f/3.7 remote telescope. This was before the ATEO Portal was ready for beta testing.

M31 - "The Andromeda Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's 16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (ATEO-1).
M31 - "The Andromeda Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's
16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (ATEO-1). 

The latest image above was taken completely through the ATEO online access portal. This image, a bit more impressive, was taken on the morning of October 5th, 2018, with filters Luminance 600 seconds along with Red, Blue, and Green at 300 seconds. All binning 2x2 and the image processing was done in PixInight and Photoshop CS6.

While the Andromeda Galaxy makes quite an impression, we thought why not image another galaxy of a completely opposite type. NGC 6822 was loaded into the Telescope Console on the ATEO Portal as a target as well. The specifications of this image are Luminance 300 Seconds, RGB 120s, and all 2x2 binning.

NGC 6822 - "Barnard's Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's 16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (ATEO-1).
NGC 6822 - "Barnard's Galaxy" Imaged via Insight Observatory's ATEO Portal on it's
 16" f/3.7 Remote Robotic Telescope (
ATEO-1).

NGC 6822 (also known as Barnard's Galaxy, IC 4895, or Caldwell 57) is a barred irregular galaxy approximately 1.6 million light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. Part of the Local Group of galaxies, it was discovered by E. E. Barnard in 1884, with a six-inch refractor telescope. It is one of the closer galaxies to the Milky Way. It is similar in structure and composition to the Small Magellanic Cloud and is about 7,000 light-years in diameter.

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

21P Giacobini-Zinner On the Move

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner has been putting on a good show recently, so I grabbed some shots of the speedy comet as it cruised through the inner Solar System with the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO).

From the 16" f/3.7 reflector, ATEO-1, I thought it would be interesting to capture the motion of the comet. On September 21st around 5:15 in the morning I imaged with 2-minute exposures every 10 minutes, for a total of 15 images captured. Since the comet was low on the horizon during the first part of the exposure run, we see some glow near the horizon which you see at the bottom of the image on the first few frames of the loop. After processing: normal image reduction and aligning all the images, the animated GIF was created that you see below. Elapsed time in the GIF: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Time-elapse GIF of Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner imaged by Muir Evenden on ATEO-1.
Time-elapse GIF of Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner imaged by Muir Evenden on ATEO-1.

Next, I wanted a shot from the 5" f/7 refractor, ATEO-2. A few days later on September 23rd at 3:30 in the morning I captured a 10-minute image with the one-shot color camera while the mount was set to track the comet. The result was this nice picture of the comet moving along...

Comet  21P/Giacobini-Zinner Imaged by Muir Evenden tracking the comet on ATEO-2.
Comet  21P/Giacobini-Zinner Imaged by Muir Evenden tracking the comet on ATEO-2.
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