Astronomy Photography with Jack Newton

by Todd Smith on October 3, 2008

M31, Andromeda Galaxy, Messier 31, Messier Object 31, NGC 224

I had a great opportunity to photograph the stars with world renowned astronomer, Jack Newton last week. You can see my newsletter about this here. The image above is Andromeda Galaxy.

In a few short hours we saw and photographed many beautiful nebulae and galaxies with his 5 inch telescope and special super-cooled camera. We also looked through his 16 inch telescope, but didn’t photograph through it because we would have needed longer exposures.

If you ever want to test the theory of rods and cones in the eye, just look at a nebula through a telescope and then take a picture and compare. The camera captures it in color, but in dim light the eye can only see in black and white.

Here are the images we took last Sunday. Jack offers a tutorial and, while I can say I pushed the button for the camera, he really did everything else. His equipment is state of the art and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with him.

Lagoon Nebula, M8

The lagoon nebula is one of the brightest star forming nebulae in the sky and is actively producing a considerable cluster of stars. Located in Sagittarius, this nebula contains smaller dark nebulae, as well as a bright “hourglass nebula” at its center. Hubble Space Telescope has revealed swirls of gas that display apparent turbulence, like a twister.

M8, Lagoon Nebula, Messier 8, Messier Object 8, NGC 6523

Hercules Globular Cluster, M13

This globular cluster of stars, known as M13, is one of the most prominent globular clusters of the Northern Hemisphere. It is a group of relatively older stars, but contains one young blue star, Barnard No. 29 not seen here, which is presumably a captured field star.

M13, Great globular cluster in Hercules, Hercules Globular Cluster, Messier 13, Messier Object 13, NGC 6205

Eagle Nebula, M16

The Eagle Nebula is a star forming nebula. When seen from the Hubble space telescope, billowing clouds of gas are apparent.

M16, Eagle Nebula, Messier 16, Messier Object 16, NGC 6611, IC 4703

Horseshoe Nebula, M17

This diffuse nebula is found in constellation, Sagittarius. It is a star forming nebula and shines due to excited emission of its gases from the approximately 35 hot new stars inside the nebula. Under very favorable conditions, this nebula is just visible to the naked eye.

 M17, Horseshoe Nebula, Lobster Nebula, Messier 17, Messier Object 17, NGC 6618, Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula

Trifid Nebula, M20

This beautiful nebula is famous for it’s three lobed appearance (pink), and thus it’s name. The pink part of the nebula is an emission nebula caused by the excitation of hydrogen gas by hot new stars in the interior. Surrounding the pink section is a blue reflection nebula, visible especially to the North (top of image). This nebula is located in the constellation, Sagittarius.

To the top left is a loose cluster of stars, known as M21.

M20, Messier 20, Messier Object 20, NGC 6514, Trifid Nebula, M21, Messier 21, Messier Ojbect 21, NGC 6531, star clusters

Dumbbell Nebula, M27

This unusual nebula is sometimes described as an apple core. The red color forms the uneaten ends of the apple core. Located in the constellation, Vulpecula, this is a planetary nebula, and is considered to be one of the finest examples in the sky. Planetary nebuae are formed when a star has used up its fuel and ejects some of its remaining mass into a cloud around it. The inner core still has enough energy to make the cloud glow.

M27, Dumbbell Nebula, Messier 27, Messier Object 27, NGC 6853

Whirlpool Galaxy, M51

The Whirlpool Galaxy is located in the constellation, Canes Venatici. It is one of the most conspicuous and well known spiral galaxies in the sky. This galaxy was the first one where the spiral nature was discovered. It was discovered in 1781 by Messier, and accurately drawn by Lord Rosse in 1845. The pronounced spiral arms are thought to be a result of being so close to it’s neighbor, the irregular galaxy, NGC 5195 (the bright spot just to the top of the Whirlpool Galaxy).

M51, Messier 51, Messier Object 51, NGC 5194, Whirlpool Galaxy, NGC 5195

To order prints, click on any image above, or go to the Straight From The Camera section of my site.

For a more subjective point of view, check out this week’s corresponding newsletter.

This was my first real experience with astronomy. I can see how it could be addicting… and I thought regular photography equipment was expensive!

Have you ever been hooked on astronomy? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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