Astrophotography

The Great Cluster in Hercules

The Great Cluster in Hercules

Carl Crum '24 If you thought the Messier 3 globular cluster was impressive, then say hello to the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules! Although this stellar assembly has fewer stars than Messier 3, it is considered one of the most beautiful deep-sky objects in the northern hemisphere. The two giant stars around the Great Cluster are Eta and Zeta Herculis, and in the top-right corner of the image is NGC 6207, a distant spiral galaxy 30 million light years away. Due to the cluster’s immense age (over 11 billion years old), its stars only contain 5% of the iron our…
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The California Nebula

The California Nebula

Carl Crum '24 What would be even cooler than claiming the Moon? Claiming a nebula! The California Nebula is known for its elongated shape which loosely resembles the Golden State. Despite extending 100 light years in length–making it one of the largest nebulas in our local Orion Arm of the galaxy–it’s surrounded by only stars and faint molecular clouds for several trillion miles in all directions. Coincidentally, the declination of the California Nebula (+36º 25’ 18”) is the same as the latitude of central California! Do you like looking at my astrophotos? Then check out the high-resolution images on Astrobin…
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The Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy

Carl Crum '24 Although situated 2 million light years away, the Andromeda Galaxy is nonetheless visible to the unaided eye when seen from a dark sky site, which makes it the farthest space object observable without a telescope. According to Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia of Ethiopia. When Queen Cassiopeia offended the Nereids (sea nymphs) by claiming she was more beautiful than them, the nymphs complained to Poseiden, who sent the sea monster Cetus to decimate her lands as punishment. To end the conflict, King Cephus offered princess Andromeda as a sacrifice to…
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The Jellyfish Nebula

The Jellyfish Nebula

Carl Crum '24 It’s often said that we know less about the bottom of the ocean than outer space, but who knew that aquatic creatures roamed the stars? IC 443, or the Jellyfish Nebula, is the wispy remains of a red supergiant star which went supernova thousands of years ago. When a star is larger than 10-15 solar masses, it only burns for several million years. During that time, it progressively expands and cools, and once it exhausts its nuclear fuel, the entire star will collapse under its immense gravity in a matter of seconds. However, instead of dissipating into…
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The Needle Galaxy

The Needle Galaxy

Carl Crum '24 3/4/2021 - Needle Galaxy It’s that time of year again: Galaxy Season! From March to May, astrophotographers in northern latitudes set up their largest telescopes each night in search of the furthest and faintest deep-space wonders known to man. Captured last season, this photo is of the Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565), an edge-on galaxy located approximately 40 million light years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices. The central nucleus is somewhat bloated as a result of gravitational interactions with another galaxy. Although the Needle appears skinny and small, don’t let that deceive you: in reality, it…
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Messier 3 Globular Cluster

Messier 3 Globular Cluster

Carl Crum '24 The Messier 3 globular cluster was the first deep-sky object actually discovered by Charles Messier, the famous 18th century French astronomer. Visible through binoculars in a dark-sky location, M3 is located approximately 33,900 light years away from Earth, spans over 220 light years across, contains about 500,000 stars, and is roughly 8 billion years old. For perspective, our solar system is only 0.03 light years in diameter, contains one star, and is 4.6 billion years old. M3 is well known for its 274 variable stars (stars that sporadically dim and brighten over time), which is more than…
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Heart Nebula – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heart Nebula – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Carl Crum '24 Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this is my take on the Heart Nebula! Also known as IC 1805, this massive emission nebula owes its ruby-red hue to ionized hydrogen gas which is being illuminated by the Melotte 15 open cluster of stars. Near the center of the Heart are pillars of dust which are being sculpted by the open cluster’s blue supergiant stars. Love is truly in the air… or rather, in the sky!
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Cocoon Nebula

Cocoon Nebula

Carl Crum '24 The Cocoon Nebula is an emission and reflection nebula, meaning it is composed of ionized gas which not only emits its own light, but reflects the light of the stars within it as well. Located in the constellation of Cygnus at about 4,000 light years away, this nebula is a “stellar nursery” where a new open cluster of stars is being born over the course of many thousands of years. At the center of the Cocoon is a massive star which is producing enough radiation to sculpt the nebula’s dust and gas lanes. Additionally, the Cocoon is…
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Comet Neowise

Comet Neowise

Carl Crum '24 Bright comets are fairly rare solar system objects which used to be interpreted as omens in ancient times. Comet Neowise appeared last summer and was most visible in the early morning and right after sunset. A comet consists of three main parts: a nucleus, a coma, and a tail. The bright point at the front of the comet is the nucleus, which is surrounded by the coma. When Neowise was first spotted, its coma and tail had a yellow-white tint. However, as the weeks progressed, the color of the comet changed to a vibrant green as the…
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The Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula

Carl Crum '24 The famous Horsehead Nebula – or Barnard 33 – was officially discovered by Williamina Fleming in 1888 and catalogued by E. E. Barnard in 1894. The Horsehead, which is at the center of the photo, is a dark molecular cloud which sits in front of the bright emission nebula IC 434 and lies directly next to Alnitak, the lowest star in Orion’s Belt. The fiery-looking nebula below Altinak is the Flame Nebula, which is illuminated by an open cluster of stars that’s forming inside of it. Although the Horsehead region seems quite large, it is only a…
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