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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Messier 82, Cigar Galaxy

A new personal record, 400 frames! The whole lot taken in just under 5 hours during a good night of extended darkness. This galaxy gets its unusual shape from an exceptionally high rate of star formation, a process called starburst [wiki].

To add to this one's mystery, in April of this year, radio astronomers in Manchester reported a strange new object in M82. A 'micro quasar' was suggested, highly luminous and fairly stable. Some associate this with a massive black hole system, but not at the galaxy's center. The object is several arcseconds off center and an apparent motion of 4x the speed of light!

Yes, you read right, FOUR times the speed of light....warp speed, Scotty!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Casitas de Gila

An astronomer's getaway, that's what it is. Many thanks to the proprietors, Michael and Becky, of this quiet mountain retreat just outside the small town of Gila, New Mexico. What a fantastic way to spend quality time with your telescope!

Large open areas to setup, easy access to power, and the basic comforts the casitas provide including refrigeration for your foodstuffs. If you choose to indulge in this experience, please plan to bring your perishables in with you as the nearest grocery is over an hour away. A small convenience store is 4 miles back in Gila...but that's it.

Arrived on Thursday the 29th and stayed through Saturday night May 1st. Though the timing wasn't so great for dark skies, the clouds and Moon were absent for a couple hours where I could try out my scope.

Decided to retake Messier 13, the Great Cluster in the constellation Hercules. Comparatively, I have to say even with only 152 unguided frames, the results of this location impressed me. Nestled in a location with a Bortle Dark-Sky rating of 2, we were somewhere around 6000ft. above sea level.

This photo is comprised of 152 x 15 sec. unguided JPEG frames at ISO 1600, taken with a modified Canon 450D and field flattener. Created new bias and flats for this outing, 200 apiece.

We'll be back here again soon!