Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A new surge of astronomical activity across the UK

What with the consistent beautiful clear weather we've had following months of persitent rain and cloud, the guaranteed clear skies have brought everyone out to look at the stars. I've spent many a moment staring up at the Milky Way on recent nights. You can follow it from Sagittarius and the Scutum cloud in the South, to the fork at Aquila the eagle, up through the Cygnus rift, where the swan flies along it from right to left, and across the gap to Cassiopeia, the 'W' in the North East. The double cluster is visible in the space between Cassiopeia and Perseus, who is climbing up from the North East horizon. Below Cassiopeia, the Andromeda galaxy is now visible again. When I look at this galaxy, I try to imagine it far beyond as well as below our Milky Way Galaxy above it. Of course, the true scale is unimaginable. This photo is of a fairly large patch of sky in Cepheus (the King), situated just above the Milky Way inbetween Cassiopeia and Cygnus. I centred on the nebulosity illuminated by the red star mu Cephei, called the 'Garnet Star'. Delta Cephei, the archetype Cepheid variable is visible to the lower left, also with what looks like some nebulosity near it. Some call it the Elephant Trunk nebula, but I guess I'd have to get a little more zoomed in. It's a stunning wide field with dark dust lanes strung out in front of the background stars in the next outer spiral arm of our Galaxy. Picture comprises of 9 x 1 minute exposures through a 135mm lens stopped to f/4, tracked on an EQ5 mount, and many flats and darks were taken to calibrate the picture.

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