Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Deep Sky Objects

Happy 2012!

Fireworks Galaxy NGC 6946 
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona

Celebrate the New Year with the Fireworks Galaxy! Also known as NGC 6946, the big, beautiful spiral galaxy is located just 10 million light-years away, behind a veil of foreground dust and stars in the high and far-off constellation of Cepheus.

May God bless you throughout this year and always! Have a prosperous year ahead! 🙂

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The Christmas Tree Cluster

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Christmas Tree Cluster, also known as NGC 2264, is a well-studied region in the Monoceros (the Unicorn) constellation. The Christmas Tree Cluster was so named because it looks like a tree in visible light. The nebula is roughly 2,500 light-years away. That is, the nebula emitted the light in the new Spitzer image 2,500 years ago.

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” ~ Charles Dickens

As we experience the joys of Christmas this year, let us not forget that Christ is the reason for the season. The birth of Jesus Christ is a wonderful holiday to celebrate our love for Christ and his atoning sacrifice for all of us.

Happy Holidays, folks! Have a blessed year ahead! 🙂


Halloween Celebration and Astronomy

IC 2118 (Witch Head Nebula) in Orion. Original image credit: NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey

Did you know that Halloween is a significant day on the astronomical calendar?

Surprising, isn’t it? Halloween means more than just a day for spooky stuff, costumes and candy treats. This celebration is actually a cross-quarter day which means it falls approximately half way between the Autumnal Equinox, the astronomical start of fall and Winter Solstice, the astronomical start of winter.

Red crosses mark the year’s cross-quarter dates. Credit: NASA

It’s no coincidence that Halloween has a dark side. Halloween is believed to have originated with the ancient Celtic harvest festival Samhain. Samhain roughly translates to “summer’s end”. It was the date that signaled the start of winter when most plant life is dead. A season where food would be limited and living conditions would be less than favorable. It was a day of celebration and of dread, the line between the living summer and the dead winter.  It was not until middle ages that the day was associated with the Christian holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Days.

This year’s Halloween has  a bit of something for everyone. This is because the eastern sky during late October nights is filled with deep sky treats for stargazers of all types.

For the naked eye observer, the first of the brilliant stars of winter start to peek over the eastern horizon: Capella and Aldebaran. Three of the nearest galactic star clusters are visible to the naked eye: the Pleiades, the Hyades, and the Perseus Moving Cluster.

Halloween Sky Treat — eastern sky on Oct. 31, 2011 (around 9:30 PM)

Want more? Check out these links to see a gallery of eerie and spooky space images:

Happy Halloween! 🙂


My First Image of our very own Milky Way Galaxy!

Last April, I was invited along with some fellow UP AstroSoc members to join the 2011 Philippine Messier Marathon organized by the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP). The event was held on the shore of Lake Caliraya at the Eco Saddle Campsite in Laguna.

It was a really nice opportunity for an amateur astronomer like me to be part of an event like this –  a trip away from the light polluted city to observe in perfectly dark skies. However, I found it hard to decide whether or not to join the observation because I was also supposed to attend the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) in Davao City. My heart was torn between my obligation and mission as a student leader and my love for the heavens.

Fortunately, the circumstances changed just in time for me to be able to join in the overnight observation.

I would finally see the Milky Way for the first time  in all its grandeur.

And I DID! 🙂

My image of the Milky Way Galaxy 🙂 Camera used: Canon EOS 1000D DSLR on a tripod. 90-second exposure at 1600 ISO. Using a powered motor equatorial (tracking) mount of some kind is necessary to compensate for the earth’s rotation when doing long-exposure photography. This is to avoid producing star trails and blurs just like those in the image above.

I was lucky to have with me a borrowed DSLR camera to capture images of the mesmerizing dark skies above Lake Caliraya. From the northern hemisphere, the best views of the Milky Way are in the summer -with the brightest parts in the southern sky.

It was a very cold and windy night by the lake. Dew kept forming on my laptop, and every gust of wind threatened to topple my camera and tripod. Nevertheless,  I stayed in the cold to take images. Such is the life of an amateur astronomer but it is always worth the effort. 🙂

Since I cannot take a single picture showing the expanse of the Milky Way, what I did was I took several shots of it and stitched those images together in Photoshop to produce a wide field photo.

Stitching Pictures Together with Photoshop's Photomerge Tool - This panoramic (sort of) view of the Summer Milky Way was created by merging 12 individual shots (all taken at 90 sec. exposure) of the Milky Way (spanning from the northeast to southwest). Click on image to enlarge.

I must admit that I still lack the skill in doing long-exposure photography. It was my first time to do that, haha. Every image that I took was a product of trial-and-error attempts, but thanks to the incredibly dark skies of Caliraya, my fellow orgmate’s useful tips, and the opportunity that God gave me, that I was able to produce my first images of our home galaxy. 🙂

I probably have to practice more on astrophotography and read tutorials to prepare for the next opportunity of taking pictures of the Milky Way. Hopefully, I could have my own DSLR camera (plus some real decent astro equipment) by that time. *I still have to save a lot of money for this.* 😛

Ad astra per aspera!


Happy Valentine’s Day from Space!

The Heart Nebula, IC 1805 resemble the silhouette of the heart from which takes its name. It lies some 7500 light years away from Earth, located in the Perseus arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is an emission nebula showing glowing gas and darker dust lanes.

Happy Heart’s Day, everyone! 🙂

Image source: Rick Wiggins/Earthlink.net (used without permission)


Cheers to 2011!

 

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!


 

Image: The Great Orion Nebula (taken using MicroObservatory Online Telescope last August, 2010)


Holiday Greetings from Space

Messages of joy and peace are illuminated by the natural splendor of the universe.  Hope you enjoy these holiday cards from U.P. AstroSoc and Hubble 🙂

Have a Merry Astro Christmas, friends!

May your Christmas sparkle with moments of love, hope and goodwill; and may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy. 🙂

 

source image: NGC 602 | Layout by Aaron Misayah

Image: Spiral Galaxy M74

Image used: Infant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Image: Scattered Light from the Boomerang Nebula

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You can also send holiday astro e-cards to your family and friends through this and this site.

 


The Sky at Night from Bohol, Philippines

As what I have written in a previous post, I love the month of October when it comes to skygazing 😀 It is mainly because during this month, my favorite Orion Constellation family starts become prominent in the evening sky, and the sky is fairly clear. However, several typhoons hit the northern part of the Philippines — where I reside — during last month. It even rained during the peak of the famous Orionid Meteor Shower that most people where not able to observe it. Global Warming and Climate Change might have really changed today’s weather patterns. 😦

Good thing, a friend was able to go to a beautiful island located in the southern part of the country and he shared his experience of seeing the stunning view of the starry sky there.

Bohol is one of the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines with its nice beaches and numerous attractions like The Chocolate Hills, The Philippines Tarsier, a number of very old churches (dating back to the early years of the Spanish colonization), historical monuments, caves, waterfalls, and more. But apart from these, what I personally love most about this place is its nice beautiful night sky (which I have just seen through photographs :P). I would definitely like to visit this place soon.

Panglao Island, where my friend Andre Obidos stayed, is located just southwest of the capital, Tagbilaran City.

 

Andre preparing his camera set up during dusk.*

Unlike in Manila, the sky in Bohol is so much less light polluted and very ideal for skygazing. Moreover, the rain clouds from the typhoon which raged the country for weeks did not reached this part.

Andre took a lot of images of the night sky from there and with his permission, I compiled some of the best shots which were taken during the night of Oct. 20 and 22, 2010 into a slideshow below.

Enjoy! 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Camera used: Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

 

 

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*image courtesy of Rebecca Obidos


Luna meets the ‘Seven Sisters’

The Pleiades (M45) is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type (blue-white) stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky.

This star cluster is also known as the ‘Seven Sisters’, daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione in Greek mythology. In Filipino culture, this is referred as ‘The Rosary’ because of its appearance.

 

Notice that close group of stars near the moon?  (click image to enlarge)

Tonight, the Pleiades can be found near the waning gibbous moon. Look for these two rising at the eastern sky around 8 PM (PST).

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Image taken by Andre Obidos