Nebula and Star Clusters

The Winner is: The Dumbbell Nebula

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This color image of the Messier 27, A.K.A. Dumbbell nebula, was taken through the SARA north 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The Dumbbell sits over 1,360 light years from Earth and hosts a super-sized white dwarf in its central regions. The colorful regions are actually the gas that used to make up the star before it died in a "Helium Flash", blowing of the outer layers of the star while the core collapsed into a white dwarf. As part of an observational astronomy lab assignment, Images through V, R, and I filters were reduced and examined. The best matching images in each color were then read into MIRA, and image processing routine, aligned, and then color combined. The result is this striking image of the Dumbbell nebula. The students in the observational astronomy compete each year to get the "Prettiest picture" which is then featured at the Stocker picture of the week site. The students responsible for this image is Daniel Pacheco and his lab partners.

The Crab Supernova remnant for Christmas!

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The Crab nebula is a supernova remnant in our Milky Way galaxy. The star that exploded was seen and recorded by Chinese astronomers in 1054 A.D. They kept such accurate records, that modern day astronomers looked at the location they recorded and found this expanding mass of gas that resulted from the explosion. When the star exploded, it was so bright it was visible for several months in the day time. It now houses a stellar remnant that we believe is a neutron star that is rapidly rotating sending out pulses of radio radiation. We call these objects pulsars. This object is about 6400 light years from Earth. The image was taken on December 22, 2016, but the light left the crab in 4384 B.C. Its current brightness is +8.4 magnitudes, far too faint to be seen without a telescope. This images was taken by Dr. James Webb and Casey Groden with the FIU 24" telescope at the Stocker astroscience observatory.

Messier 52

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Messier 52 is an open cluster of stars located in the constellation Cassiopeia. Open clusters are clusters of stars found in or near the disk of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Astronomers think they were all born at roughly the same time out of the same gas cloud. In the case of M52, there could be as many as 193 members, the brightest as seen from Earth is 11th magnitude. Stellar density estimates indicate there are about 3 stars per cubic parsec in the center of the cluster. Some estimates place its age as only 35 million years old, that’s young given the Earth is nearly 4.8 Billion years old! It is about 5,200 (+- 2000) light years away, but this distance is uncertain since there is a fair amount of dust and gas between us and the cluster. This image was created by combining RGBL images taken with the FLI CCD camera and the ACE 24” telescope at the Stocker Astroscience center on 1106/2016 by Dr. Webb. The data reduction and color combination, also by Dr. Webb, left some streaks across the top of the image that are not real and are the result of faulty flat field images. These images are part of the Stocker Centers Messier project.

Eagle Nebula

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This region of space in the constellations Serpans (the serpent) lies roughly 7000 light years from Earth. It is a vast open star cluster filled with active star formation regions and emission nebula. It received the name “Eagle Nebula” because the dark shapes in the center when first seen was thought to resemble an eagle with talons extended. It is one of the most photographed and well know nebula because of its rich gas structures and the tall trillion-kilometers-long columns of dense star forming regions. When Space Telescope imaged this region in high resolution, their picture became known as “The Pillars of Creation” and could be seen in newspapers, magazines and TV shows ever since. The term “creation” of course refers to stars being born within the tall columns of dense gas embedded in the nebula. These images were taken with the SARA South telescope by Dr. James Webb, Douglas Laurence and Jordan DeWitt on August 4th, 2014. The images were reduced and color combined by (Roberto) Bobby Martinez and Dr. Webb.

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Crab Nebula

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Found 6,500 light years away in the constellation of Taurus, the Crab Nebula (known as M1) is a supernova remnant. The original supernova that formed the crab nebula was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Arab astronomers in 1054 AD as an incredibly bright “Guest star” which was visible for over twenty-two months. During this time on Earth, iron plows were first being used, and the crossbow was introduced in France. The supernova that produced the Crab Nebula is thought to have been an evolved star roughly ten times more massive than the Sun. The gaseous nebula you see in this picture are the outer layers of that dying star that were ejected with speeds approaching 1,500 Km/sec. At the very center of the Crab Nebula is a relatively young pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star which emits pulses of radio radiation, in this case over 30 times per second. The images were taken by Dr. Webb at the SARA-KP Observatory on October 15 2014, and color combined by Bobby Martinez.

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Messier 46

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Five thousand five hundred light years away from Earth is Messier 46, an open star cluster in the constellation of Puppis. Within the picture above is the planetary nebula NGC 2438. The planetary nebula is actually closer to Earth at 3000 light years while the cluster is more distant. The images were taken by the SARA-CT by Dr. James Webb, Sarah Dhalla, Douglas Laurence on January 30th 2014 and color combined by Bobby Martinez assisted by Owen Chbani.

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Messier 30

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This bright smudge of stars in the picture above is the Messier 30 (M30), a globular cluster of starts within the Milky Way and visible in the constellation of Capricornus. Over 27000 light-years away from Earth while spanning 90 light-years across, the M30 is easily visible with a pair of binoculars. Its brightness is a result of a core collapse, which also makes it one of the densest regions in the Milky Way. Strangely, the M30 orbits the Milky War in the opposite direction compared to other clusters, suggesting that it may have formed in another (relatively) nearby galaxy. The images were taken at the Sara Observatory by Dr. James Webb, Douglas Laurence on October 20th 2014 and color combined by Bobby Martinez.

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The Spirograph Nebula from the Ground and from Space

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What may seem to be a large star in the center this image is actually the Spirograph Nebula (IC 418), shown again blown up in the upper left. It is a planetary nebula that can be seen within the Lepus constellation. At approximately 2000 light-years away and spanning .3 light-years in diameter, the Spirograph Nebula is just too faint to be seen with binoculars. The exact origins and specifics of the nebula are still currently uncertain. The blown up image to the upper left was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, as the Astroscience Center’s telescope is not powerful enough to take such a close picture. The unusual patterns give the nebula its name, as they resemble patterns drawn using a Spirograph. The individual images was taken by Dr. James Webb at the Astroscience Center on the 16th of January and combined by Bobby Martinez

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The Crab Nebula from FIU MMC Campus

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The Crab Nebula, also called M1 or NGC 1952, is a very important supernova remnant first discovered in 1731. However, the supernova eruption that caused the Crab was actually seen on Earth by Chinese astronomers in 1054 AD. Its distance is around 6,500 light years away from Earth, so the explosion happened in 5446 BC! The nebula is a result of a massive star that ended its stellar lifetime in a huge thermonuclear blast called a supernova. The clouds of gas from the outer parts of the star were ejected into space at speeds approaching 1,500 km/sec and are what we see in the image above. Embedded deep in the nebula, not resolvable by our ground=based telescope, is the Crab pulsar. The pulsar is a rapidly spinning stellar remnant that is so dense, the entire star, called a neuron star, is as dense as an atomic nucleus. This image was taken by Patrick Ford and Daniella Roberts using the 24-inch telescope at FIU's Stocker Astroscience Center. The exposures were 20 seconds long through RGBL filters to achieve accurate color rendition of the nebula. The exposures were reduced and color combined by Patrick Ford.

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NGC 3603 from FIU MMC Campus

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NGC 3603 is one of the most massive and densest star clusters within the Milky Way, and can be seen within the constellation of Carina. Around 17 light-years in length, and 20000 light-years away from earth, the cluster can be seen using 7x50 binoculars under good conditions. Its strong ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds have cleared away most of the massive clouds of gas and plasma surrounding it, giving the earth a clear view. The images used to create this picture were taken with the Stocker Astroscience Center 0.61-meter telescope at FIU by Dr. James Webb, and color combined by Bobby Martinez.

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M107 Globular Cluster from the Stocker AstroScience Center

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Physics major Daniel Puentes has started a project of observing the Messier list of objects from the FIU Stocker Astroscience center. To initiate this project, Daniel made images of the globular cluster M107 on July 10, 2015 at the Stocker Astroscience center with the Stocker 24" main telescope. He used RGBL filters and sixty second exposure times to capture the globular cluster located about thirty kilo-light years away from Earth. The images were reduced in MIRA and color combined. This globular cluster is thought to contain about two-hundred-thousand Solar masses of stars within about forty light years.

The initial reductions were done by Daniel Puentes and the final color combination by Dr. Webb.

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M57 (ring nebula) from the Stocker AstroScience Center

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The Ring nebula, number 57 in Charles Messier's catalog, is a planetary nebula 2,300 light years away from the Earth. The ring of gas was expelled from the central star after the main sequence star used up its supply of hydrogen in the core, expanded into a red giant, and then the core Helium ignited. This catastrophic nuclear explosion sent the hydrogen envelope expanding out into space at speeds of 20-30 km/s. The leftover core is a white dwarf. The images were taken on 8/6/2015 by Dr. Webb using the ACE 24" telescope and the FLI CCD camera. The images were reduced and color combined using MIRA software.

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IC 418 - The Spirograph Revisited

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The famous nebula revisited from previous images taken at the Stocker Astroscience center in Miami Florida on 12/10/2014. The images are 8 second exposures through Johnson R,V and I filters and color combined in Mira to get a psuedo-color image. Although we lack the resolution, even on the best nights, of the Hubble Space telescope, we can still pick up the nebulosity around the central star. This object is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Lepus and is the result of a red giant star which exploded a few million years ago. It is over 3600 light years from Earth and appears to us as a faint nebula only a few arc minutes across in the optical. The famous Space telescope images revealed not only the intricate patterns of nebulosity from which it gained its name "Spirograph Nebula", but also the expansion speed of the gases. The central star was probably very similar to our Sun. These images were taken, re-reduced and color combined by Dr. Webb.

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Messier 29 - Open Cluster

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Messier 29, discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier, who catalogued over 100 star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies, is an open star cluster in the Cygnus constellation. With an apparent magnitude of 7.1, the cluster can be seen with binoculars or a low-power telescope. It is considered to be relatively young, at 10 million years old. Located 4,000 light years away, M29 contains eight extremely noticeable stars, five of which are classified as B0. This means that, placed in the location of our Sun, any of those five stars would be 160,000 times brighter! This image is the final result of four images, with red, green, and blue filters exposed for 30 seconds, and a luminance filter exposed for 5 seconds. They were taken by Dr. Webb on August 7th, 2015, with FIU’s very own telescope atop the Stocker AstroScience Center, and were color combined by Gabriel Salazar.

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Messier 56 - Globular Cluster

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Messier 56, a globular cluster within the Lyra constellation, was first discovered by Charles Messier on January 19, 1779. Messier identified his fifty sixth catalogued astronomical object as a “nebula without stars.” Unbeknownst to him it was a 13.7 billion-year-old Class X globular cluster of 80,000 stars. The classification X describes the concentration of stars, with X, or ten, denoting a cluster with a generally loose concentration. The cluster is approximately 32,900 light years away, with a diameter of 84 light years, and is moving towards Earth at 145 kilometers per second. M56 cannot be seen with the unaided eye due to its apparent magnitude of 8.3, but some outer stars can be seen with telescopes with aperture 250mm or larger. It is most discernable in the northern hemisphere from June to August. This image is the final result of four images, with red, green, blue, and luminance filters exposed for 20 seconds. They were taken by Dr. Webb on August 7th, 2015, with FIU’s Stocker AstroScience Center telescope, and were color combined by Gabriel Salazar.

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Messier 27 - The dumbbell Nebula

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M27, also called the Dumbbell Nebula, is a planetary nebula in the constellation Vulpecula. Charles Messier was the first to discover the object back in 1764. M27 is 1.36 thousand light years away from Earth. The object’s magnitude is around 7.5, making this nebula visible with a low powered telescope during any clear autumn night. In the center of the nebula is a white dwarf star, which is the producer of the gas cloud that surrounds it. The individual images were each exposed for 30 seconds in the R, G, B, and L filters through the FIU AstroScience Center’s 24-inch telescope by physics major Daniel Puentes. The images were then reduced and color-combined by Gabriel Salazar and Daniel Puentes.

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Messier 71 - Open Cluster

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Messier 71 is a globular cluster within the constellation Sagitta, which is Latin for “arrow.” It was first discovered by Philippe Loys de Cheseaux in 1746 and was added to the Messier catalogue in 1780. It lies approximately 12,000 light years away and has a diameter of 27 light years. M71 has always been a mystery to astronomers, who have been unable to reach a consensus on the classification of the cluster. It has difficulty fitting into either globular clusters or open clusters, as it is too large, dense, and old (at 9-10 billion years) for open clusters, yet too small, loose, and young for globular clusters. Finally, in the 1970s, during a study of the stars within the cluster, the discovery of the horizontal branch pattern, characteristic of globular clusters, settled the matter. This image is the result of four images, in red, blue, green, and luminance filters, all exposed for thirty seconds. They were taken by physics major Daniel Puentes using the telescope atop FIU’s Stocker AstroScience Center, and were color combined by Gabriel Salazar.

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Messier 30 - Globular Cluster

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The previously featured Messier 30, a globular cluster within the Capricornus constellation, is the thirtieth object in Charles Messier’s famous catalogue. Discovered in 1764 by Messier himself, the cluster is approximately 12.93 billion years old, 27,000 light years away, and has a diameter of 90 light years. Within this Class V cluster (a moderate concentration towards the center) lies about 150,000 stars! Indeed, a core collapse within M30 has caused the center to become highly dense. Fun fact: Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a binary star system about less than one half of a light year from the center. This system includes an extremely dense and small star known as a neutron star, which is the leftover material from a supernova that resulted from the collapse of a massive star. This is the result of four images from red, blue, green, and luminance filters, each exposed for 30 seconds. They were taken by physics major Daniel Puentes with the Stocker AstroScience Center’s telescope and were reduced and color combined by Gabriel Salazar. For more information on the Harvard-Smithsonian discovery, please visit https:/www.cfa.harvard.edunews/2007/su200712.html

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Messier 76: The Little Dumbell Nebula

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Messier 76 (M76), also known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula, is a planetary nebula located around 2,500 light years away from Earth. M76 is located in the Perseus nebula with a radius of around 0.617 light years. The name for this particular nebula takes its influence from another planetary nebula (which was a previous astronomy picture of the week!) called the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) due to the shape of the gaseous cloud. The image was taken from the Stocker Astroscience Center at FIU using 60-second exposures in the R, B, G, and L filters by Physics Majors Daniel Puentes and Stephen Revesz. The images were then reduced in MIRA by Daniel Puentes and Stephen Revesz.

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The Orion Nebula Star Formation Region from FIU

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The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, is a diffuse nebula located in the Orion constellation. The nebula of 4 magnitude, which is 1600 years away, is visible to the naked eye on a very dark night with excellent conditions. M42, a center for star creation, contains a visible open star cluster. The younger and brighter stars are only 30,000 years old, which is very early in the life of a star. The nebula’s four brightest stars, all known as “The Trapezium,” lie at the center of the cosmic cloud. This picture is the final result of three images of the red, blue, and green filters, all exposed for one second, as well as an image in the luminance filter exposed for a quarter of a second. All images were taken using the 24” AstroScience Stocker Center telescope by Stephen Revesz, Daniel Puentes, and Jennifer Medina. The images were further reduced and color combined by Gabriel Salazar.

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NGC 2392, the Eskimo Nebula, from the Stocker Astroscience Center

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NGC 2392, or the Eskimo Nebula, is a planetary nebula that is about 1.2 light years across and lies 4,200 light years from earth. Planetary nebulae are nebula made from the ejections of a red giant star and have a central star, which is in the process of becoming a white dwarf. The Eskimo Nebula was discovered by William Herschel on January 17, 1787, and is named for its appearance as a head that is surrounded by a hood. With an apparent magnitude of 10.1, this object can be observed with larger binoculars and can be found within the constellation Gemini. A study of the Eskimo Nebula by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory shows very high x-ray emissions in comparison to other nebula, which may indicate the presence of a currently invisible second star, making the Eskimo Nebula the home of a binary star system. This image is the result of the color combination of NGC 2392 in red, blue, and green filters exposed for 30 seconds, as well as a luminance filter exposed for 5 seconds. The original images were taken by Stephen Revesz using FIU’s 24” telescope and were color combined by Stephen Revesz and Gabriel Salazar.

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Messier 78

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Messier 78 is a reflection Nebula that can be located within the Orion constellation. A reflection nebula is one in which clouds of interstellar dust are illuminated by the light of nearby stars, much like fog around a street lamp. It was discovered in 1780 by Pierre Mechain and then documented by Charles Messier. Located over 1600 light years from earth the nebula is roughly 4 light years across. Messier can be spotted even with small telescope or binoculars as a hazy patch near the “belt” of the Orion constellation.

This image is the result of four separate images taken with different wave-lengths filters by the Stocker AstroScience ACE 24” telescope and then reduced and color combined by Bobby Martinez using MIRA Pro.

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Messier 72

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Messier 72 is a globular cluster that can be located within the Aquarius constellation. It was first discovered by Pierre Mechain on August of 1780 and was later catalogued by Charles Messier. This star cluster has a diameter of over 100 light years and it is over 55,000 light years away from earth. Due to its distance from earth it is one of the faintest of Messier’s globular clusters, and can barely be seen with smaller telescopes. In fact, when it was first discovered neither Mechain nor Messier could tell what exactly Messier 72 was, thinking it to be a faint nebula.

This image is the result of four separate images taken with different wave-lengths filters by the Stocker AstroScience ACE 24” telescope and then reduced and color combined by Bobby Martinez using MIRA Pro.