Trifid Nebula - Also called Messier 20 or M20.
Recorded by Elise Anderson, Gordon Jones, Erin Long, and Jenna Blakley on Sept. 5, 2007. The telescope is a 20 cm aperture telescope on a computerized Celestron GT mount. The camera is the Meade Deep Sky Imager (DSI-Pro). Jenna Blakley processed the multiple images in each color (red, green, and blue) to assemble the image in full color.
The Trifid Nebula is a member of a class of nebulae called "Emission Nebulae".
Nebula - Also called Messier 57
Recorded by Erin Long and Kelly Hawkins on Sept. 17-18, 2007.
The image was recorded in three colors plus the luminance (total light value) using the cooled CCD camera (SBIG ST-7) mounted on the 20 cm diameter telescope. However, only the luminance is shown here. We are awaiting processing to add all the colors to the image.
The Ring Nebula is an example of a planetary nebula, although it has nothing to do with planets!
Nebula - Also called Messier 27.
This is a color image recorded over two sessions. Emily Woodall on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007 recorded the luminance value. Alex Pearce on Sept. 19, 2007 recorded the image through 3 filters: red, green, and blue. Emily Woodall performed the extensive color processing - aligning and co-adding many images in each of the primary colors and combining them to produce a composite color image. Compare the resultant multi-image sum at right with a preliminary image of only one frame for each color below.
The Dumbbell Nebula is another planetary nebula.
|The image at right is a preliminary color version - only one image of each color is included.|
|NGC 7635. Also called the Bubble
Photographed on Oct. 1, 2007 with the help of Laurel Thwing, Valerie Moore, Jake Lyerly, and Gordon Jones.
This is an emission/reflection nebula caused by extremely hot UV emitting young stars. The "Bubble" is a shock wave of expanding winds from an invisible star at the center of the bubble. The shock wave interacts with the interactinbg mater in the cloud and forms the luminiscent sphere.
|M15. A globular cluster in Pegasus.
Photographed on Oct. 1, 2007 with the help of Laurel Thwing, Valerie Moore, Jake Lyerly, and Gordon Jones.
Globular clusters are extremely interesting. They are massive clusters containing as many as 500,000 stars. Globular clusters are also very old - much older than the Sun and the Solar System. Part of the reason for the large age of globular clusters arises from the high gravitational stability of these clusters. There are so many stars that the mutual gravitational attraction of the stars binds the cluster together.
One might ask, "Why don't the stars all collapse towards the center into one massive black hole?". The answer comes from the fact that these clusters are dynamic - the stars are all in various orbits about the center of mass. Spectral studies reveal the motions of the stars in the clusters. There is definite evidence that the core of these clusters contains a very massive black hole - arising from stars colliding and dissipating their energy and eventually "condensing" into the black hole.
This photo is a color photo made up of about 10 20second exposures through each primary-colored filter plus a no-filter to capture the luminance. The image has been digitally enhanced to reveal more discrete stars in the core of the cluster.
image of M22 - a globular
cluster. Photographed by Jessie
Read, Penye Su, Gordon
Don Collins. This is a closer globular to Earth than M15 above,
hence the larger apparent size.
|M29 - An Open Cluster in Cygnus
Photographed and processed on October 15 by Chelsea Gandy. This is a color image made by recording 3 images - one in each primary color (red, green, and blue). The colors are then combined by overlapping the three images, the image from the red filter "paints" the pixels red, the green filtered image paints the pixels green, etc.
Open clusters, in contrast to globular clusters, are rather young structures. All the stars in an open cluster are presumed to be about the same age, formed by the gravitational condensation of ancient prestellar material (mostly hydrogen). The Trifid Nebula at the top of this page is an example of the stars currently forming from the condensation of clouds. Astronomy classes at Warren Wilson College study the relative ages of open clusters by plotting the brightness of stars against the color (a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram). The stars in open clusters eventually dissipate - there is not enough self gravity to hold the cluster together after a few billion years - unlike the globular clusters.
|M11 - An Open Cluster
in Scutum. Also known as the "Wild Duck" cluster.
Photographed on October 8, 2007 by Jessie Read, Penye Su, and Gordon Jones. The color was processed by Gordon Jones. The image is constructed by three primary colored filters similar to the discussion for M29 above.
M11 is one of the densest open clusters known. Compare the density of stars in M11 with M29 above. However, the number of stars in M11 is still negligible compared to the half-million stars believed to lie in a typical globular cluster.
|The Great Galaxy in
Andromeda - Also known as M31.
Photographed by Jake Lyerly and Chloe Stuber and D. Collins. We photographed 11 frames in different parts of this huge structure. Taylor Sanford assembled all 11 frames into this large mosaic image. Notice the details in the dust lanes throughout the galaxy.
|The Pinwheel Galaxy,
November 7, 2007 by Pengye Su, Chloe
Stuber, Emily Woodall and Don Collins. Notice the spiral
structure of this galaxy. It is about 3 million light years
distant, and considerably smaller than M31. It is a member of the
Local Group of galaxies that include the Milky Way and M31.
|Cataclysmic Variable V455
Andromedae light curve. A major research effort by Dr.
Collins involves observing cataclysmic variables. The star, newly
designated V455 And, has recently erupted (September, 2007) and shows
amazing variability with major cycles lasting about 90 minutes.
These variable stars are of major interest with the Center for Backyard
and the American Associan of Variable Star Observers (http://www.aavso.org/). The
light curve at right shows characteristic oscillations during outbursts
called "super humps". The sporatic data between the first and
second maximum represent clouds obscuring the image.
The graph below right shows the light curve variations 2 nights later. The axes are different, so the amplitude of the oscillations are about the same, but the shape of the "humps" is decidedly different. This is a very dynamic system.
This is the image of V455 Andromedae in relation to other stars. It has recently brightened by a factor of 100 times its quiescent value. Image by WWC telescope and CCD camera.
|A major interest in the study of
cataclysmic variables is the period analysis. These are very
complicated systems. The white dwarf is extremely massive and
dense. A white dwarf is about the size of the Earth but the mass
of the Sun - making it about 1 Million times more dense than the
average density of the Earth. The white dwarf star and an
ordinary star are in close orbit around each other. The time for
one orbit is usually between 1-3 hours. 90 minutes in the case of
V455 And. The stars are so close that the white dwarf is
constantly pulling material from the ordinary star - and the material
eventually lands on the white dwarf emitting UV radiation and even
X-rays. However, due to the high orbital velocity of the system,
the material does not fall directly onto the white dwarf, but
circulates in orbit about the white dwarf forming an accretiion
disk. The physics of the accretion disk is very complicated due
to the turbulence, the differential rotation, and the tidal effects of
All sorts of variations in brightness appear as shock waves build up and mofify the light output. One very interesting feature is the appearance of the spinning rate of the white dwarf itself. Analysis of the light curve above (the Sept. 19 version) shows the presence of a 67 - 68 second oscillation (immersed in many other frequencies and signals). This signal is believed to be due to the spinning of the white dwarf itself. Other signals vary in time from day to day, but the 67-68 second signal persists at the constant rate all through the eruptions of this system. I refer this to the "hard core" rotation rate.
M39. Photographed on
October 29, 2007 by Jenna Blakley, Jake
Lyerly, and Don
Collins. This is a color photo. Several images in each of
the primary colors: red, green, and blue were made. The images
were processed by Ted Risberg. The processing involves adding
the images of each color to minimize noise, then aligning the images of
the different colors and forming a composite color image where the red
image illuminates the red pixels, green image illuminates green pixels,
The astronomy students will study the color of the stars to determine the relative age of the cluster. Notice that the bright stars are white and the fainter stars are red. This indicates a fairly young cluster. There is one fairly bright reddish star near the center of the image.
Holmes. Photographed on Oct. 29, 2007
with assistance from Jenna Blakley
and Jake Lyerly using the
telescope and the CCD camera. This comet had been a very faint
comet quite invisible to naked eye, then it suddenly erupted last week
to over 1 million times its normal brightness to be visible to the
un-aided eye. To the unaided eye, it looks like a star in Perseus
near the 2nd magnitude star Mirfak.
|Comet Holmes on Nov.
7, 2007. Photo
Woodall, Pengye Su, and Chloe Stuber. The comet has grown in apparent
size since Oct. 29, even though the comet is receding from Earth and
the Sun. The reason for the growth is that the dust that was
released by the "explosion" during the week of October 22-26 has
diffused into a larger volume of space. Our view of the comet is
almost head-on. The tail streams out directly behind the comet in
the direction opposite the sun. Notice the assymetry of the
comet. This is attributed to the tail streaming at a slight angle
to our perspective. Notice also the bright, small head of the
comet slightly below the center of the cloud in both pictures.
This picture awaits color processing. We will keep monitoring
this amazing comet. We expect that it will continue to grow
brighter and more diffuse as the cloud continues to expand and become
blown away by the Sun's radiation pressure.
Nov. 28, 2007. Gordon Jones, Valarie Moore, Taylor Sanford
Dec. 6, 2007. Jessie Read, Laurel Thwing, Kelly Hawkins. The comet is continuing to grow. The "tail" shows a sligtly different orientation.
|At right is a digital camera photograph
Collins) of Comet Holmes and its relation to the stars in
Perseus. The image was made on October 30, 2007. We will
examine the position of the comet in the following weeks.
The Crab Nebula. Photographed Nov. 28 by Gordon Jones, Taylor Sanford, and Valerie Moore. The Crab Nebula
is a supernova remnant from a supernova that exploded in 1054 AD and
recorded by the Chinese. The nebula has been expanding ever
since. In the center of the Crab Nebula lies a neutron star
pulsar that "flashes" about 30 times a second. The neutron star
is the collapsed core of the star that exploded. The neutron star
is only about 10 km in diameter, and,has approximately the mass of the
sun. The density is on the order of 109 gm/cm3.
The structure of the Crab Nebula is very complicated consisting of
intense magnetic fields twisted and contorted in all directions.
That gives teh wispy appearance to this nebula.