APOD Collection: A Mess of Messiers

A nostalgic look back at Astronomy Picture of the Day
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APOD Collection: A Mess of Messiers

Postby owlice » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:34 pm

What is the collective term for Messier objects?? Regardless of whether I have chosen the right one (suggestions are welcome) for the title of this thread, here are APODs for every Messier object featured relatively on its own over the years. And here's a fun fact about Asterisk: there is a limit of 60,000 characters in a post. I learned that when I was 6,654 characters ( :shock: ) over the limit, which accounts for using two posts to accommodate all the images. Enjoy!

2009 October 25
This is the mess that is left when a star explodes. The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD, is filled with mysterious filaments. The filaments are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion. The above image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is presented in three colors chosen for scientific interest. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only the size of a small town. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second.

2001 June 11
Beneath the south pole of our Milky Way Galaxy lies a ball of over 100,000 stars. M2, the second object on Charles Messier's eighteenth century list of bright diffuse sky objects, is known as a globular cluster, and orbits the center of our Galaxy like nearly 200 other globular clusters left over from the early days of our universe. M2, pictured above, spans over 150 light-years, lies about 50,000 light-years away, and can be seen with binoculars towards the constellation of Aquarius. Determining the distances and ages to globular clusters like M2 constrains the scale and age of our entire universe.

2007 June 9
This immense ball of half a million stars older than the Sun lies over 30,000 light-years away. Cataloged as M3 (and NGC 5272), it is one of about 150 globular star clusters that roam the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy. Even in this impressively sharp image, individual stars are difficult to distinguished in the densely packed core, but colors are apparent for the bright stars on the cluster's outskirts. M3's many cool "red" giant stars take on a yellowish cast, while hotter giants and pulsating variable stars look light blue. A closer look at the deep telescopic view also reveals a host of background galaxies. Itself about 200 light-years across, the giant star cluster is a relatively bright, easy target for binoculars in the northern constellation Canes Venatici, The Hunting Dogs, and not far from Arcturus.

2000 May 23
M4 is a globular cluster visible in dark skies about one degree west of the bright star Antares in the constellation Scorpius. M4 is perhaps the closest globular cluster at 7000 light years, meaning that we see M4 only as it was 7000 years ago, near the dawn of recorded human history. Although containing hundreds of thousands of stars and spanning over 50 light-years, M4 is one of the smallest and sparsest globular clusters known. A particularly unusual aspect for a globular cluster is M4's central bar of stars. M4, pictured above, is one of the oldest objects for which astronomers can estimate age directly. Cluster white dwarfs appear to be at least nine billion years old - so ancient they limit the youth of our entire universe.

October 19, 1995
The globular cluster M5, pictured above, contains roughly 100,000 stars. These stars formed together and are gravitationally bound. Stars orbit the center of the cluster, and the cluster orbits the center of our Galaxy. So far, about 160 globular clusters are known to exist in a roughly spherical halo around the Galactic center. Globular clusters do not appear spherically distributed as viewed from the Earth, and this fact was a key point in the determination that our Sun is not at the center of our Galaxy. Globular clusters are very old. There is a straightforward method of determining their age, and this provides a very interesting lower limit on the age of our universe of about 14 billion years.

January 6, 1999
To some, the outline of the open cluster of stars M6 resembles a butterfly. M6, also known as NGC 6405, spans about 20 light-years and lies about 2,000 light years distant. M6 can best be seen in a dark sky with binoculars towards the constellation of Scorpius, coving about as much of the sky as the full moon. Like other open clusters, M6 is composed predominantly of young blue stars, although the brightest star is nearly orange. M6 is estimated to be about 100 million years old. Determining the distance to clusters like M6 helps astronomers calibrate the distance scale of the universe.

2009 November 8
M7 is one of the most prominent open clusters of stars on the sky. The cluster, dominated by bright blue stars, can be seen with the naked eye in a dark sky in the tail of the constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius). M7 contains about 100 stars in total, is about 200 million years old, spans 25 light-years across, and lies about 1000 light-years away. The above deep exposure was taken last month over several nights from Yalbraith, NSW, Australia. The M7 star cluster has been known since ancient times, being noted by Ptolemy in the year 130 AD. Also visible are a dark dust cloud and literally millions of unrelated stars towards the Galactic center.

2009 July 22
Stars are battling gas and dust in the Lagoon Nebula but the photographers are winning. Also known as M8, this photogenic nebula is visible even without binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes of star formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gas, shown on the above left in re-assigned colors, results from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The Trifid nebula is visible on the far right. The dark dust filaments that lace M8 were created in the atmospheres of cool giant stars and in the debris from supernovae explosions. The light from M8 we see today left about 5,000 years ago. Light takes about 50 years to cross this section of M8.

2012 March 23
Renown 18th century astronomer Charles Messier described this 9th entry in his famous astronomical catalog as "Nebula, without star, in the right leg of Ophiuchus ...". But Messier 9 (M9) does have stars, known to modern astronomers as a globular cluster of over 300,000 stars within a diameter of about 90 light-years. It lies some 25,000 light-years distant, near the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy. This Hubble Space Telescope close-up resolves the dense swarm of stars across the cluster's central 25 light-years. At least twice the age of the Sun and deficient in heavy elements, the cluster stars have colors corresponding to their temperatures, redder stars are cooler, bluer stars are hotter. Many of the cluster's cool red giant stars show a yellowish tint in the sharp Hubble view.

2001 June 30
Stars like the Sun use hydrogen for fuel, "burning" hydrogen into helium at their cores through nuclear fusion. But what happens when that hydrogen runs out? For a while, hydrogen burns in a shell surrounding the stellar core and the star expands to become a red giant. The bright reddish-orange stars in this beautiful two-color composite picture of the old globular star cluster M10 are examples of this phase of stellar evolution. Yet the bright blue stars apparent in M10 have evolved beyond the simple, hydrogen shell burning stage. These stars have become "horizontal branch" giants with core temperatures hot enough to burn helium into carbon. In this image, only the barely visible, faint, gray-looking stars are likely to still be burning hydrogen at their cores.

2003 January 22
Many stars like our Sun were formed in open clusters. The above pictured open cluster, M11, contains thousands of stars and is just over five thousand light years distant. The stars in this cluster all formed together about 250 million years ago. The bright young stars in M11 appear blue. Open clusters, also called galactic clusters, contain fewer and younger stars than globular clusters. Also unlike globular clusters, open clusters are generally confined to the plane of our Galaxy. M11 is visible with binoculars towards the constellation of Scutum.

2010 May 27
In 1716, English astronomer Edmond Halley noted, "This is but a little Patch, but it shews it self to the naked Eye, when the Sky is serene and the Moon absent." Of course, M13 is now modestly recognized as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, one of the brightest globular star clusters in the northern sky. Telescopic views reveal the spectacular cluster's hundreds of thousands of stars. At a distance of 25,000 light-years, the cluster stars crowd into a region 150 light-years in diameter, but approaching the cluster core upwards of 100 stars could be contained in a cube just 3 light-years on a side. For comparison, the closest star to the Sun is over 4 light-years away. Along with the cluster's dense core, the outer reaches of M13 are highlighted in this sharp color image. The cluster's evolved red and blue giant stars show up in yellowish and blue tints.

November 12, 1996
Comet Hale-Bopp continues its slow trek across the night sky, and can now be seen superposed near the bright globular cluster M14. Will Comet Hale-Bopp become as bright in early 1997 as Comet Hyakutake did in early 1996? It is still too early to tell. Currently Hale-Bopp is curiously holding at about 5th magnitude - just barely bright enough to see without binoculars from a dark location. Because of the size of coma, some speculate that the nucleus of Hale-Bopp is unusually large. The actual nucleus is obscured, however, and recent speculation includes that the nucleus is comparable in size to Comet Halley - about 10-15 km across.

2001 September 20
Side by side, two x-ray stars greeted astronomers in this false-color Chandra Observatory x-ray image of a region near the core of globular star cluster M15. The greeting was a pleasant surprise, as all previous x-ray images of the cluster showed only one such source where Chandra's sharper x-ray vision now reveals two. These x-ray sources are modeled as neutron star binary systems. Each is a city-sized neutron star in close orbit with a normal stellar companion. X-rays are generated as matter from the normal star falls onto the compact neutron star. This break through explains why observations of the previously recognized lone neutron star binary system in M15 were difficult to reconcile with any single model. It also suggests that other globular star clusters which roam the halo of our Milky Way galaxy and seem to contain only one such neutron star x-ray source may in fact contain more. An optical Hubble Space Telescope image of the dense M15 cluster is inset at the upper right.

2002 January 3
The Hubble Space Telescope's 1995 image of pillars of dust and gas, light-years long, within the Eagle Nebula (M16) was sensational. The three prominent pillars in that close-up visible light picture also appear below center in this wide-field mosaic along with massive, bright, young stars of cluster NGC 6611 (upper right), whose winds and radiation are shaping the dusty pillars. Made in near infrared light with the European Southern Observatory's 8.2-meter Antu telescope, this wide-field image makes the pillars seem more transparent, as the longer wavelengths partially penetrate the obscuring dust. While the Hubble image showed the pillars' startling surface details - over 70 opaque, finger-shaped lumps of material dubbed evaporating gaseous globules or EGGs, the near infrared view has allowed astronomers to peer inside. Comparing the two views reveals that nearly a dozen of the EGGs do indeed have stars embedded near their tips. More stars within EGGs may be detected if longer wavelength observations of the region are made. But which came first, the stars or the EGGs?

2007 August 10
Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, the star factory known as Messier 17 lies some 5,500 light-years away in the nebula-rich constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this 30 arcminute field of view spans almost 50 light-years. Stellar winds and energetic light from hot, massive stars formed from M17's stock of cosmic gas and dust have slowly carved away at the remaining interstellar material producing the cavernous appearance and undulating shapes. Colors in the gorgeous image were picked to emphasize light emitted by specific elements in the nebula excited by the energetic starlight. Red indicates emission from sulfur, green from hydrogen, and blue from oxygen. M17 is also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula.

2000 July 19
M19 appears to be a typical globular cluster of stars - except for its shape. If one looks closely at the cluster, pictured above, it appears to be longer (top to bottom) than it is wide. In fact, M19 is the most aspherical globular cluster of the approximately 160 known orbiting the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. M19 lies about 27,000 light-years away, measures about 60 light-years across, and is home to over 100,000 stars. The cluster can be found with binoculars towards the constellation of Ophiuchus. The reason for the clusters' odd shape remains unknown, but might be related to the clusters' close (5000 light-year) proximity to the Galactic Center. Alternatively, the shape might be an illusion created by an unusual lane of dark absorbing dust on one side of the cluster.

2007 July 7
The Trifid Nebula, aka Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope, a well known stop in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. But where visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes, this penetrating infrared image reveals filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars. The spectacular false-color view is courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers have used the Spitzer infrared image data to count newborn and embryonic stars which otherwise can lie hidden in the natal dust and gas clouds of this intriguing stellar nursery. As seen here, the Trifid is about 30 light-years across and lies only 5,500 light-years away.

2014 August 28
The beautiful Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. About 5,000 light-years away, the colorful study in cosmic contrasts shares this well-composed, nearly 1 degree wide field with open star cluster Messier 21 (top right). Trisected by dust lanes the Trifid itself is about 40 light-years across and a mere 300,000 years old. That makes it one of the youngest star forming regions in our sky, with newborn and embryonic stars embedded in its natal dust and gas clouds. Estimates of the distance to open star cluster M21 are similar to M20's, but though they share this gorgeous telescopic skyscape there is no apparent connection between the two. In fact, M21's stars are much older, about 8 million years old.

2005 June 27
The globular cluster M22, pictured above, contains over 100,000 stars. These stars formed together and are gravitationally bound. Stars orbit the center of the cluster, and the cluster orbits the center of our Galaxy. So far, about 140 globular clusters are known to exist in a roughly spherical halo around the Galactic center. Globular clusters do not appear spherically distributed as viewed from the Earth, and this fact was a key point in the determination that our Sun is not at the center of our Galaxy. Globular clusters are very old. There is a straightforward method of determining their age, and this nearly matches the 13.7 billion-year age of our entire universe.

2004 September 21
Many vast star fields in the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy are rich in clouds of dust, and gas. First and foremost, visible in the above picture are millions of stars, many of which are similar to our Sun. Next huge filaments of dark interstellar dust run across the image and block the light from millions of more stars yet further across our Galaxy. The bright red region on the left is part of the Omega Nebula, an emission nebula of mostly hot hydrogen gas also known as M17. A small bright grouping of stars near the image center is the open cluster M18, while the long bright streak of stars just right of center is M24. On the far right of the image is the picturesque red emission nebula IC 1283 flanked by two blue reflection nebulas NGC 6589 and NGC 6590. These objects are visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of Sagittarius.

2009 August 31
Many stars like our Sun were formed in open clusters. The above pictured open cluster, M25, contains thousands of stars and is about two thousand light years distant. The stars in this cluster all formed together about 90 million years ago. The bright young stars in M25 appear blue. Open clusters, also called galactic clusters, contain fewer and younger stars than globular clusters. Also unlike globular clusters, open clusters are generally confined to the plane of our Galaxy. M25 is visible with binoculars towards the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius).

2003 July 25
In 1764, French astronomer Charles Messier sighted this gorgeous cosmic cloud which he described as an oval nebula without stars. Cataloged as M27, it is now popularly known as the Dumbbell Nebula, not for its substandard academic performance but for the elongated shape, like a bar with weights on each end, which first caught Messier's eye. This deep image of the bright planetary nebula does reveal the Dumbell's central star though, and an array of foreground and background stars toward the sly constellation Vulpecula. The picture is a composite that includes 8 hours of exposure through a filter designed to record only the light of hydrogen atoms, tracing the intricate details of the nebula's faint outer halo which spans light-years. Thought to be an example of the fate awaiting our own Sun 5 billion years hence, the Dumbbell Nebula is about 1,200 light-years away.

2010 January 9
The most distant object easily visible to the eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, details of a bright yellow nucleus and dark winding dust lanes, are revealed in this digital telescopic image. Narrow band image data, recording emission from hydrogen atoms, shows off the reddish star-forming regions dotting gorgeous blue spiral arms and young star clusters While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept in the 20th century. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.

November 3, 1999
Elliptical galaxies are known for their old, red stars. But is this old elliptical up to new tricks? In recent years, the centers of elliptical galaxies have been found to emit unexpectedly high amounts of blue and ultraviolet light. Most blue light from spiral galaxies originates from massive young hot stars, in contrast to the red light from the old cool stars thought to compose ellipticals. In the above recently released, false-color photograph by the Hubble Space Telescope, the center of nearby dwarf elliptical M32 has actually been resolved and does indeed show thousands of bright blue stars. The answer is probably that these blue stars are also old and glow blue, reaching relatively high temperatures by the advanced process of fusing helium, rather than hydrogen, in their cores. M32 appears in many pictures as the companion galaxy to the massive Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

2010 December 3
The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp, detailed image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 4 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

2010 February 11
This pretty[/url] open cluster of stars, M34, is about the size of the Full Moon on the sky. Easy to appreciate in small telescopes, it lies some 1,800 light-years away in the constellation Perseus. At that distance, M34 physically spans about 15 light-years. Formed at the same time from the same cloud of dust and gas, all the stars of M34 are about 200 million years young. But like any open star cluster orbiting in the plane of our galaxy, M34 will eventually disperse as it experiences gravitational tides and encounters with the Milky Way's interstellar clouds and other stars. Over four billion years ago, our own Sun was likely formed in a similar open star cluster.

2006 April 19
This evening's skyscape includes a view similar to this one, recorded in western skies on April 16 - an orange-hued planet Mars wandering near rich open star cluster M35. Also notable is fainter star cluster NGC 2158, just above and left of M35. The grouping appears near the "foot stars" of the constellation Gemini, but of course Mars is in the foreground, just over 14 light-minutes from planet Earth. The hundreds of stars in cluster M35 are more like 3,000 light-years distant. NGC 2158 is farther still, about 16,000 light-years away and is much more compact than M35. The color image shows off the contrast between hot blue stars and cooler yellowish stars within the confines of M35. But the stars of NGC 2158 are much older, and that cluster's light is definitely dominated by the orange glow of cool giant stars, making an interesting visual comparison to ruddy-colored Mars.

2003 January 7
Open cluster M38 can be seen with binoculars toward the constellation of Auriga. M38 is considered an intermediately rich open cluster of stars, each of which is about 200 million years old. Located in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy, M38 is still young enough to house many bright blue stars, although it's brightest star is a yellow giant shining 900 times brighter than our Sun. The cluster spans roughly 25 light-years and lies about 4000 light-years away. M38, pictured above, is found only about 2.5 degrees northwest of open cluster M36. Loosely bound by gravity, open clusters spread out over time as they orbit the galactic center and their member stars slowly escape.

2004 March 31
Lying just at the limit of human perception is a picturesque starfield containing one of the larger open clusters on the northern sky. Spanning an angle larger than the Moon, M39's relatively few stars lie only about 800 light years distant toward the constellation of Cygnus. The above picture of M39 is a mosaic of 33 images taken by the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona, USA. The stars in M39 are all about 300 million years old, much younger than the 5000 million years of our Sun. Open clusters, also called galactic clusters, contain fewer and younger stars than globular clusters. Also unlike globular clusters, open clusters are generally confined to the plane of our Galaxy.

2009 August 26
The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are near the center of this colorful deep sky image that includes the smaller nebula M43 and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left. Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood's wealth of interstellar material. Captured with very modest equipment, the gorgeous skyscape was awarded Best in Show at the 2009 Starfest International Salon of Astrophotography. Judges commented that the detail and shading were exquisite in this version of a classic astronomical image. The field spans nearly 3 degrees or about 75 light-years at the Orion Nebula's estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.

2002 September 25
Rising before the Sun on September 4, Jupiter and an old cresent Moon gathered in the dim constellation of Cancer. Watching from a hillside near Austin, Texas, planet Earth, astrophotographer Russell Croman recorded this view of their passing as clouds gracefully dimmed the brilliant moonlight. Earthshine illuminates the lunar night side and on close inspection, bright Jupiter at the lower right appears tightly flanked by its own four large Galilean moons. Next to Jupiter lies a loose swarm of stars just below the clouds. The stars are the brighter members of the nearby star cluster M44, popularly known as the Beehive cluster. Croman's remarkable digital image has been processed only slightly to improve the visibility of the earthshine region and Jupiter's moons.

2001 March 22
Brilliant Venus falls out of the evening sky as March ends, but Jupiter and Saturn remain well up above the western horizon. Jupiter blazes forth above and to the left of a slightly fainter Saturn in this telephoto picture taken on January 19th. Near the top lies the lovely Pleiades star cluster with suggestions of its characteristic blue reflection nebulae. These planets and the Pleiades have a similar, easily recognizable orientation in the Spring night sky. Also known as M45, the 45th object in French astronomer Charles Messier's famous catalog, the Pleiades will likely soon be checked off many stargazers' tally lists. For northern hemisphere observers this weekend offers a prime opportunity to complete a Messier Marathon -- the viewing of all 110 Messier catalog objects in one glorious dusk to dawn observing run. This weekend it will also be possible to complete an all-planet marathon, observing all the solar system's planets in a single night. And if you still need something to look at, the International Space Station could also be visible arcing through the skies depending on your location, but Mir will not.

2006 September 10
Many stars form in clusters. Galactic or open star clusters are relatively young swarms of bright stars born together near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Separated by about a degree on the sky, two nice examples are M46 (upper left) 5,400 light-years in the distance and M47 (lower right) only 1,600 light-years away toward the nautical constellation Puppis. Around 300 million years young M46 contains a few hundred stars in a region about 30 light-years across. Aged 80 million years, M47 is a smaller but looser cluster of about 50 stars spanning 10 light-years. But this portrait of stellar youth also contains an ancient interloper. The small, colorful patch of glowing gas in M46 is actually the planetary nebula NGC 2438 - the final phase in the life of a sun-like star billions of years old. NGC 2438 is estimated to be only 3,000 light-years distant and likely represents a foreground object, only by chance appearing along our line of sight to youthful M46.

January 28, 1997
Many stars form in clusters. Two types of star clusters are visible in our Milky Way Galaxy: open clusters and globular clusters. Open clusters like M50, shown above, typically contain hundreds of stars, many of which are bright, young, and blue. In fact, most of the bright blue stars in the above picture belong to M50, but most of the dimmer, red stars do not. M50 lies about 3000 light-years from Earth and is about 20 light years across. Open clusters tend to have irregular shapes and are mostly found in the plane of our Galaxy.

2011 January 26
Click to view full size image 1 or image 2

Credit: Infrared: NASA, ESA, M. Regan & B. Whitmore (STScI), & R. Chandar (U. Toledo);
Optical: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), & the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
How do spiral galaxies form stars? To help find out, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged the nearby photogenic spiral M51 in infrared light to highlight the dust that traces the dense gas that best forms stars. To further isolate the dust, much of the optical light from stars has also been digitally removed. The resulting unique image shows swirling and intricate patterns on the longest scales, while numerous bright clumps of previously hidden open star clusters appear on the smaller scales. To see the detailed optical light image for comparison, run your cursor over the above image. Anyone with a good pair of binoculars can see the Whirlpool toward the constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici). M51 lies about 30 million light years away, while the above imaged area spans about 15,000 light years from top to bottom. Astronomers speculate that M51's spiral structure is primarily due to its gravitational interaction with a neighboring smaller galaxy.
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APOD Collection: A Mess of Messiers

Postby owlice » Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:47 pm

2009 October 30
To the eye, this cosmic composition nicely balances the Bubble Nebula at the upper right with open star cluster M52. The pair would be lopsided on other scales, though. Embedded in a complex of interstellar dust and gas and blown by the winds from a single, massive O-type star, the Bubble Nebula (aka NGC 7635) is a mere 10 light-years wide. On the other hand, M52 is a rich open cluster of around a thousand stars. The cluster is about 25 light-years across. Seen toward the northern boundary of Cassiopeia, distance estimates for the Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex are around 11,000 light-years, while star cluster M52 lies nearly 5,000 light-years away.

2012 April 9
If our Sun were part of M53, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. M53, also known as NGC 5024, is one of about 250 globular clusters that survive in our Galaxy. Most of the stars in M53 are older and redder than our Sun, but some enigmatic stars appear to be bluer and younger. These young stars might contradict the hypothesis that all the stars in M53 formed at nearly the same time. These unusual stars are known as blue stragglers and are unusually common in M53. After much debate, blue stragglers are now thought to be stars rejuvenated by fresh matter falling in from a binary star companion. By analyzing pictures of globular clusters like the above image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers use the abundance of stars like blue stragglers to help determine the age of the globular cluster and hence a limit on the age of the universe. M53, visible with a binoculars towards the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices), contains over 250,000 stars and is one of the furthest globulars from the center of our Galaxy.

2004 September 18
The fifty-fifth entry in Charles Messier's catalog, M55 is a large and lovely globular cluster of around 100,000 stars. Only 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, M55 appears to earth-bound observers to be nearly 2/3 the size of the full moon. Globular star clusters like M55 roam the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy as gravitationally bound populations of stars known to be much older than stellar groups found in the galactic disk. Astronomers who make detailed studies of globular cluster stars can accurately measure the cluster ages and distances. Their results ultimately constrain the age of the Universe (... it must be older than the stars in it! ), and provide a fundamental rung on the astronomical distance ladder. This stunning three-color image made with astronomical (BVI) filters spans about 100 light-years across the globular cluster M55.

2006 May 11
As dawn approached on May 8, astronomer Stefan Seip carefully watched Fragment C of broken comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 approach M57 - the Ring Nebula, and faint spiral galaxy IC 1296. Of course, even though the trio seemed to come close together in a truly cosmic photo opportunity, the comet is in the inner part of our solar system, a mere 0.5 light-minutes or so from Seip's telescope located near Stuttgart, Germany, planet Earth. The Ring Nebula (upper right) is more like 2,000 light-years distant, well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. At a distance of 200 million light-years, IC 1296 (between comet and ring) is beyond even the Milky Way's boundaries. Because the comet is so close, it appears to move relatively rapidly against the distant stars. This dramatic telescopic view was composited from two sets of images; one compensating for the comet's apparent motion and one recording the background stars and nebulae.

2012 September 14
Giant elliptical galaxy M60 and spiral galaxy NGC 4647 do look like an odd couple in this sharp cosmic portrait from the Hubble Space Telescope. But they are found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years distant, bright M60's simpler egg-like shape is created by its randomly swarming older stars, while NGC 4647's young blue stars, gas and dust are organized into winding arms rotating in a flattened disk. Spiral NGC 4647 is estimated to be more distant than M60, some 63 million light-years away. Also known as Arp 116, the pair of galaxies may be on the verge of a significant gravitational encounter, though. M60 (aka NGC 4649) is about 120,000 light-years across. The smaller NGC 4647 spans around 90,000 light-years, about the size of our own Milky Way.

September 22, 1998
M61 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. Visible in M61 are a host of features common to spiral galaxies: bright spiral arms, a central bar, dust lanes, and bright knots of stars. M61, also known as NGC 4303, in similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. M61 was discovered by telescope in 1779 twice on the same day, but one observer initially mistook the galaxy for a comet. Light from M61 takes about 60 million years to reach us. Recent observations of M61 have detected unpredicted high velocity gas moving in its halo.

2008 April 17
A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky, Messier 63 is about 25 million light-years distant in the loyal constellation Canes Venatici. Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own Milky Way. Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 sports a bright yellowish core and sweeping blue spiral arms, streaked with cosmic dust lanes and dotted with pink star forming regions. But this deep exposure also shows remarkable faint loops and extensions of the galaxy's spiral arms. A dominant member of a known galaxy group, M63's faint extended features could be the result of gravitational interactions with nearby galaxies. M63 also shines across the electromagnetic spectrum and is thought to have undergone bursts of intense star formation.

2004 February 11
The Sleeping Beauty galaxy may appear peaceful at first sight but it is actually tossing and turning. In an unexpected twist, recent observations have shown that the gas in the outer regions of this photogenic spiral is rotating in the opposite direction from all of the stars! Collisions between gas in the inner and outer regions are creating many hot blue stars and pink emission nebula. The above image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2001 and released last week. The fascinating internal motions of M64, also cataloged as NGC 4826, are thought to be the result of a collision between a small galaxy and a large galaxy where the resultant mix has not yet settled down.

2007 June 1
M65 is a big, beautiful spiral galaxy, the sixty-fifth object in the famous astronomical catalog compiled by 18th century cosmic tourist Charles Messier. It's also a member of a picturesque trio of large spiral galaxies known as the Leo Triplet, about 35 million light-years away. This sharp view of M65 shows off the galaxy in remarkable detail, with tightly wound spiral arms and dust lanes stretching into a core dominated by the yellowish light from an older population of stars. In fact, M65 seems to be the least disturbed of the Leo Trio, though it is close enough to be interacting gravitationally with the other two galaxies (not seen here). Very nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight, M65 is about 100,000 light-years across, similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy.

2006 September 2
When morning twilight came to the Paranal Observatory in Chile, astronomers Mark Neeser and Peter Barthel interrupted their search for faint quasars, billions of light-years away. And just for a moment, they used Very Large Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory to appreciate the beauty of the nearby Universe. One result was this stunning view of beautiful spiral galaxy M66, a mere 35 million light-years away. About 100 thousand light-years across with striking dust lanes and bright star clusters along sweeping spiral arms, M66 is well known to astronomers as a member of the Leo Triplet of galaxies. Gravitational interactions with its neighborhood galaxies have likely influenced the shape of dusty spiral M66.

2007 August 9
Gathered at the center of this sharp skyview are the stars of Messier 67, one of the oldest known open star clusters. In fact, though open star clusters are usually much younger, the stars of M67 are likely around 4 billion years old, about the same age and with about the same elemental abundances as the Sun. Open clusters are almost always younger because they are dispersed over time as they encounter other stars, interstellar clouds, and experience gravitational tides while orbiting the center of our galaxy. Still, M67 contains over 500 stars or so and lies some 2,800 light-years away in the constellation Cancer. At that estimated distance, M67 would be about 12 light-years across.

2014 December 10
Click to view full size image 1 or image 2
Image Credit & Copyright: Bob Franke
Now known to be a globular star cluster at the tender age of 10 billion years, M71 is a mere 13,000 light-years away within the narrow boundaries of the faint constellation Sagitta. Close to the plane of the Milky Way galaxy in planet Earth's sky, its 10,000 or so member stars are gathered into a region about 27 light-years across near the center of this color composite view. In fact, the line-of-sight to M71 passes along the galactic plane through much intervening diffuse interstellar dust. The dust dims starlight and scatters blue light more efficiently, masking the brightness of M71's stars and shifting true star colors toward the red. How much are the star colors shifted? Slide your cursor over the image (or follow this link) to use an estimate of the dust reddening or galactic extinction to correct the star colors in M71. Corrections to the brightness and colors of M71 member stars are needed to measure the cluster's distance and age using a Color-Magnitude diagram.

2010 May 12
Globular clusters once ruled the Milky Way. Back in the old days, back when our Galaxy first formed, perhaps thousands of globular clusters roamed our Galaxy. Today, there are less than 200 left. Many globular clusters were destroyed over the eons by repeated fateful encounters with each other or the Galactic center. Surviving relics are older than any Earth fossil, older than any other structures in our Galaxy, and limit the universe itself in raw age. There are few, if any, young globular clusters in our Milky Way Galaxy because conditions are not ripe for more to form. Pictured above by the Hubble Space Telescope are about 100,000 of M72's stars. M72, which spans about 50 light years and lies about 50,000 light years away, can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius).

2003 May 24
If not perfect, then this spiral galaxy is at least one of the most photogenic. An island universe of about 100 billion stars, 30 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces, NGC 628 or M74 presents a gorgeous face-on view to earthbound astronomers. Classified as an Sc galaxy, the grand design of M74's graceful spiral arms traced by bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes, is similar in many respects to our own home galaxy, the Milky Way. Recorded with a 28 million pixel detector array, this impressive image celebrated first light for the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), a state-of-the-art instrument operational at the 8-meter Gemini North telescope. The Gemini North Observatory gazes into the skies above Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, while its twin observatory, Gemini South, operates from Cerro Pachón in central Chile.

2008 November 21
Also known by the popular name the "Little Dumbbell Nebula", M76 is one of the fainter objects listed in Charles Messier's 18th century Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters. Like its better-known namesake M27 (the Dumbbell Nebula), M76 is recognized as a planetary nebula - a gaseous shroud cast off by a dying sunlike star. The nebula itself is thought to be shaped more like a donut, its central box-like appearance due to our nearly edge-on view. Gas expanding more rapidly away from the donut hole produces the more extensive, far flung material in this remarkable image that uses narrow-band filters to highlight the emission from hydrogen (in red) and oxygen atoms (in greenish blue). In particular, complex oxygen emission features are seen above and below the main nebula to a degree not detected in most images of M76. Distance estimates place M76 about 3 to 5 thousand light-years away toward the heroic constellation Perseus, making the nebula over a light-year in diameter.

2006 December 7
Face-on spiral galaxy M77 lies a mere 60 million light-years away toward the aquatic constellation Cetus. Also known as NGC 1068, its very bright core is well studied by astronomers exploring the mysteries of supermassive black holes in active galaxies. While M77 is also seen at x-ray, ultraviolet, infrared, and radio wavelengths, this visible light image highlights another remarkable aspect of the galaxy. In the picture, the data has been enhanced to show outer faint details, following spiral arms and structures that reach far beyond the galaxy's brighter central regions. Including the fainter outskirts, the galaxy's diameter is well over 100 thousand light-years at M77's estimated distance, making it larger than our own spiral Milky Way.

2008 March 18
An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78 and other bright reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion. The dark filamentary dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. Of the two reflection nebulas pictured above, the more famous nebula is M78, on the upper right, while NGC 2071 can be seen to its lower left. The same type of scattering that colors the daytime sky further enhances the blue color. M78 is about five light-years across and visible through a small telescope. M78 appears above only as it was 1600 years ago, however, because that is how long it takes light to go from there to here. M78 belongs to the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex that contains the Great Nebula in Orion and the Horsehead Nebula.

July 7, 1999
If our Sun were part of M80, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. M80, also known as NGC 6093, is one of about 250 globular clusters that survive in our Galaxy. Most of the stars in M80 are older and redder than our Sun, but some enigmatic stars appear to be bluer and younger. Young stars would contradict the hypothesis that all the stars in M80 formed at nearly the same time. These unusual stars are known as blue stragglers, and by analyzing pictures like the Hubble Space Telescope image above, astronomers have been able to find the largest population of blue stragglers yet. As blue stragglers are now thought to be due to stars coalescing, the collision and capture rate at the dense center of M80 must be very high.

2007 May 15
Where are the hot stars in M81, one of the closest major spiral galaxies? To help find out, astronomers took a deep image in ultraviolet light of the sprawling spiral with the Earth-orbiting Galex telescope. Hot stars emit more ultraviolet than cool stars, and are frequently associated with young open clusters of stars and energetic star forming regions. Magnificent spiral galaxy M81, slightly smaller in size to our own Milky Way Galaxy, shows off its young stars in its winding spiral arms in the above image. Less than 100 million years old, the young stars are blue in the above false-color Galex image and seen to be well separated from the older yellowish stars of the galactic core. Visible above M81 is a satellite galaxy dubbed Holmberg IX. Studying the unexpectedly bright ultraviolet glow of this small irregular galaxy may help astronomers understand how the many satellites of our own Milky Way Galaxy developed. M81, visible through a small telescope, spans about 70,000 light years and lies about 12 million light years away toward the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

March 15, 1998
Something strange happened to this galaxy, but what? M82 is a nearby galaxy in the group of galaxies dominated by itself, M81, and NGC 3077. M82 is thought by some to be limping away from a close encounter with M81. This galactic collision might have stirred up the inner stars and gas in M82, causing the unusual dark lanes of dust visible in the above photograph. M82 is a starburst galaxy with a very active center containing star clusters far brighter than any in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

May 25, 1998
M83 is a bright spiral galaxy that can be found with a small telescope in the constellation of Hydra. M83 is a member of the Centaurus group of galaxies, a nearby group dominated by the massive galaxy Centaurus A. It takes light about 15 million years to reach us from M83. The spiral arms are given a blue color by the many bright young stars that have recently formed there. Dark dust lanes are also visible. Stars and gas in spiral arms seem to be responding to much more mass than is visible here, implying that galaxies are predominantly composed of some sort of dark matter. Finding the nature of this dark matter remains one of the great challenges of modern science.

2008 July 8
The Virgo Cluster of Galaxies is the closest cluster of galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy. The Virgo Cluster is so close that it spans more than 5 degrees on the sky - about 10 times the angle made by a full Moon. With its heart lying about 70 million light years distant, the Virgo Cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies, contains over 2,000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group of Galaxies surrounding our Milky Way Galaxy. The cluster contains not only galaxies filled with stars but also gas so hot it glows in X-rays. Motions of galaxies in and around clusters indicate that they contain more dark matter than any visible matter we can see. Pictured above, the heart of the Virgo Cluster includes bright Messier galaxies such as Markarian's Eyes on the upper left, M86 just to the upper right of center, M84 on the far right, as well as spiral galaxy NGC 4388 at the bottom right.

2008 April 25

Bright lenticular galaxy M86 is near center of this cosmic view, at the heart of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Other bright galaxies in the neighborhood include M84 at the upper right, edge-on spiral NGC4388 near the right edge, a striking pair of interacting galaxies, Markarian's Eyes, in the lower left corner, and edge-on spiral NGC 4402 at about 11 o'clock. With well over a thousand members, the Virgo Cluster is the closest large cluster of galaxies. On average the cluster galaxies are measured to be about 50 million light-years away. The entire Virgo Cluster is difficult to appreciate because it covers such a large area, spanning over 10 degrees on the sky. This cluster close-up covers a region just under 1 degree wide or about 1.5 times the size of the full moon.

2010 May 20
In spiral galaxies, majestic winding arms of young stars, gas, and dust rotate in a flat disk around a bulging galactic nucleus. But elliptical galaxies seem to be simpler. Lacking gas and dust to form new stars, their randomly swarming older stars, give them an ellipsoidal (egg-like) shape. Still, elliptical galaxies can be very large. Centered in this telescopic view and over 120,000 light-years in diameter, larger than our own Milky Way, elliptical galaxy M87 (NGC 4486) is the dominant galaxy of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Some 50 million light-years away, M87 is likely home to a supermassive black hole responsible for a high-energy jet of particles emerging from the giant galaxy's central region. In this well-processed image, M87's jet is near the one o'clock position. Other galaxies are also in the field of view, including large Virgo Cluster ellipticals NGC 4478 right of center and NGC 4476 near the right edge.

2010 January 30
Charles Messier described the 88th entry in his 18th century catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters as a spiral nebula without stars. Of course the gorgeous M88 is now understood to be a galaxy full of stars, gas, and dust, not unlike our own Milky Way. In fact, M88 is one of the brightest galaxies in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster some 50 million light-years away. M88's beautiful spiral arms are easy to trace in this colorful cosmic portait. The arms are lined with young blue star clusters, pink star-forming regions, and obscuring dust lanes extending from a yellowish core dominated by an older population of stars. Spiral galaxy M88 spans over 100,000 light-years.

March 16, 1996
Spiral galaxy M90 is near the center of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies - the closest cluster of galaxies to the our own Milky Way Galaxy. Also dubbed NGC 4569, this galaxy has a very compact and bright nucleus. Because of M90's proximity and motion inside the Virgo Cluster, M90 actually shows a blueshift - indicating that it is moving toward us rather than away. Most galaxies show a redshift which indicates that they move away from us. Calibrating exactly how redshift relates to distance would indicate a scale for our universe - a topic of much debate recently.

2012 February 4
Sweeping slowly through the constellation Hercules, Comet Garradd (C2009/P1) passed with about 0.5 degrees of globular star cluster M92 on February 3. Captured here in its latest Messier moment, the steady performer remains just below naked-eye visibility with a central coma comparable in brightness to the dense, well-known star cluster. The rich telescopic view from New Mexico's, early morning skies, also features Garradd's broad fan shaped dust tail and a much narrower ion tail that extends up and beyond the right edge of the frame. Pushed out by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit while the ion tail, blown by the solar wind, streams away from the comet in the direction opposite the Sun. Of course, M92 is over 25,000 light-years away. Comet Garradd is 12.5 light-minutes from planet Earth, arcing above the ecliptic plane.

2009 July 17
Beautiful island universe M94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. A popular target for earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across. Its remarkable features include prominent dust lanes, a bright, point-like nucleus, and a bright, bluish ring dominated by the light of young, massive stars. The massive stars in the ring are all likely less than 10 million years old, indicating the galaxy experienced a well-defined era of rapid star formation. As a result, while the small, bright nucleus is typical of the Seyfert class of active galaxies, M94 is also known as a starburst galaxy. Because M94 is relatively nearby, astronomers can explore in detail reasons for the galaxy's burst of star formation.

2007 March 14
Why do some spiral galaxies have a ring around the center? First and foremost, M95 is one of the closer examples of a big and beautiful barred spiral galaxy. Visible in the above recent image from the CFHT telescope in Hawaii, USA, are sprawling spiral arms delineate by open clusters of bright blue stars, lanes of dark dust, the diffuse glow of billions of faint stars, and a short bar across the galaxy center. What intrigues many astronomers, however, is the circumnuclear ring around the galaxy center visible just outside the central bar. Recent images by the Chandra X-ray Observatory have shown that X-ray light surrounding the ring is likely emission from recent supernovas. Although the long term stability of the ring remains a topic of research, recent observations indicate its present brightness is at least enhanced by transient bursts of star formation. M95, also known as NGC 3351, spans about 50,000 light-years and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Lion (Leo).

2007 June 15
Dust lanes seem to swirl around the core of Messier 96 in this colorful, detailed portrait of the beautiful island universe. Of course M96 is a spiral galaxy, and counting the faint arms extending beyond the brighter central region it spans 100 thousand light-years or so, about the size of our own Milky Way. M96 is known to be 38 million light-years distant, a dominant member of the Leo I galaxy group. Background galaxies and smaller Leo I group members can be found by examining the picture, but accomplished astro-imager Adam Block notes he is most intrigued by the edge-on spiral galaxy that apparently lies behind the outer spiral arm near the 10 o'clock position. The edge-on spiral appears to be about 1/5 the size of M96. If the spiral is similar in actual size to M96, then it lies about 5 times farther away.

2009 May 15
The Owl Nebula is perched in the sky about 2,600 light-years away toward the bottom of the Big Dipper's bowl. Also cataloged as M97, the 97th object in Messier's well-known list, its round shape along with the placement of two large, dark "eyes" do suggest the face of a staring owl. One of the fainter objects in Messier's catalog, the Owl Nebula is a planetary nebula, the glowing gaseous envelope shed by a dying sun-like star as it runs out of nuclear fuel. In fact, the Owl Nebula offers an example of the fate of our Sun as it runs out of fuel in another 5 billion years. As we see it, the nebula spans over 2 light-years making it roughly 2,000 times the diameter of Neptune's orbit. Beautiful to look at, this color image shows impressive details within the cosmic owl. The composite includes images made through narrow-band filters for a total of 24 hours of exposure time.

2006 March 7
One of the nearer supernovas of recent years was discovered last month in the bright nearby galaxy M100. The supernova, dubbed SN 2006X, is still near its maximum brightness and visible with a telescope toward the constellation of Berenice's Hair (Coma Berenices) The supernova, pictured above, has been identified as Type Ia indicating that a white dwarf star in the picturesque spiral galaxy has gone near its Chandrasekhar limit and exploded. Although hundreds of supernovas are now discovered each year by automated searches, nearby supernova are rare and important because they frequently become bright enough to be studied by many telescopes and are near enough for their immediate surroundings to be spatially resolved. Supernova 2006X's host galaxy M100 resides in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies located about 50 million light years from Earth.

2000 June 10
This picture of giant spiral galaxy Messier 101 (M101) was taken by the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT). UIT flew into orbit as part of the Astro 2 mission on-board the Space Shuttle Endeavour in March 1995. The image has been processed so that the colors (dark purple through white) represent an increasing intensity of ultraviolet light. Pictures of galaxies like this one show mainly clouds of gas containing newly formed stars many times more massive than the sun, which glow strongly in the ultraviolet. In contrast, visible light pictures of galaxies tend to be dominated by the yellow and red light of older stars. Ultraviolet light, invisible to the human eye, is blocked by ozone in the atmosphere so ultraviolet pictures of celestial objects must be taken from space. M101 is a mere 22 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. Its popular moniker is the Pinwheel Galaxy.

2001 February 7
Bright blue stars highlight the open cluster known as M103. The gas clouds from which these stars condensed has long dispersed. Of the stars that were formed, the brightest, bluest, and most massive have already used up their nuclear fuel and self-destructed in supernova explosions. A 20 million-year age for M103 was estimated by finding the brightest main-sequence stars that still survive and theoretically computing their lifetimes. In fact, a formerly blue star has recently evolved off the main sequence and is visible above as the red giant star near the cluster center. In general, yellow stars like our Sun are usually less bright and hence less prominent in open clusters than their massive blue cousins. Light takes about 14 years to cross M103. Although visible with binoculars toward the constellation of Cassiopeia, M103's great distance of 8000 light years makes it appear four times smaller than a full moon.

2001 October 21
Why does the Sombrero Galaxy look like a hat? Reasons include the Sombrero's unusually large and extended central bulge of stars, and dark prominent dust lanes that appear in a disk that we see nearly edge-on. Billions of old stars cause the diffuse glow of the extended central bulge. Close inspection of the bulge in the above photograph shows many points of light that are actually globular clusters. M104's spectacular dust rings harbor many younger and brighter stars, and show intricate details astronomers don't yet fully understand. The very center of the Sombrero glows across the electromagnetic spectrum, and is thought to house a large black hole. Fifty million-year-old light from the Sombrero Galaxy can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of Virgo.

2005 July 30
Close to the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and surrounded by the stars of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici), this celestial nebula was discovered in 1781 by the metric French astronomer Pierre Mechain. Later, it was added to the catalog of his friend and colleague Charles Messier as M106. Modern deep telescopic views reveal it to be an island universe -- a spiral galaxy around 30 thousand light-years across located only about 21 million light-years beyond the stars of the Milky Way. Youthful blue star clusters and reddish stellar nurseries trace the striking spiral arms of M106. Seen so clearly in this beautiful image, the galaxy's bright core is also visible across the spectrum from radio to x-rays, making M106 a nearby example of the Seyfert class of active galaxies. The bright core of a Seyfert galaxy is believed to be powered by matter falling into a massive central black hole.

2013 May 23
Beautiful barred spiral galaxy M109, 109th entry in Charles Messier's famous catalog of bright Nebulae and Star Clusters, is found just below the Big Dipper's bowl in the northern constellation Ursa Major. In telescopic views, its striking central bar gives the galaxy the appearance of the Greek letter "theta", θ, a common mathematical symbol representing an angle. Of course M109 spans a very small angle in planet Earth's sky, about 7 arcminutes or 0.12 degrees. But that small angle corresponds to an enormous 120,000 light-year diameter at the galaxy's estimated 60 million light-year distance. The brightest member of the now recognized Ursa Major galaxy cluster, M109 (aka NGC 3992) is joined by three spiky foreground stars strung out across this frame. The three small, fuzzy bluish galaxies also on the scene, identified left to right as UGC 6969, UGC 6940 and UGC 6923, are possibly satellite galaxies of the larger M109.

2006 September 8
This very sharp telescopic vista features the last object in the modern version of Charles Messier's catalog of bright clusters and nebulae - Messier 110. A dwarf elliptical galaxy, M110 (aka NGC 205) is actually a bright satellite of the large spiral galaxy Andromeda, making M110 a fellow member of the local group of galaxies. Seen through a foreground of nearby stars, M110 is about 15,000 light-years across. That makes it comparable in size to satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Though elliptical galaxies are normally thought to be lacking in gas and dust to form new stars, M110 is known to contain young stars, and faint dust clouds can easily be seen in this detailed image at about the 7 and 11 o'clock positions relative to the galaxy center.
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UT: Fancy doing a Messier Marathon this Weekend?

Postby bystander » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:18 pm

Fancy doing a Messier Marathon this Weekend?
Universe Today | Adrian West | 2011 Mar 28
If you are new to astronomy, you may ask “what is a Messier Marathon and how do I do one?”

Messier Objects.jpg
Basically a Messier Marathon is an all night (Dusk til Dawn) observing session held around mid March/ early April every year, where an observer attempts to see all, or as many of the 110 Messier objects as listed by Charles Messier.

The Messier list includes: Nebulae, Galaxies, Star clusters, Supernovae and many other deep sky objects. All of the objects in the Messier list are observable with small amateur telescopes and many of the objects are observable with binoculars.

The reason why Messier marathons take place from mid March to early April is because this is when all of the objects are visible in one evening. Other times of the year aren’t suitable as some of the objects will be in daylight or below the horizon etc.

You don’t have to be an astronomy ace or a seasoned astronomer to do a Messier marathon, but you will need a good telescope to see all of the objects. You don’t even need to do a full Messier marathon as many people do half marathons and depending on your location, or when you observe, you may not be able to see all 110 objects as there is a very tight window of opportunity and higher latitude observers do lose a couple of objects below the horizon.

Timing is key to enable you to see as many of 110 messier objects as possible. Many astronomers put tables and even star charts on the internet to help observers see as many objects as possible.

Observing starts at dusk and ends after dawn and on average each object gets about 5 minutes of observing time before you have to move onto the next one. There can be a short respite half way through the observing session for food and rest, but this depends on the order and success of the objects you are viewing?

Before starting your night of viewing Charles Messier’s wonders, make sure you have all your equipment ready, are dressed warm as it will get cold, have all your charts and viewing tables ready. It also helps to have a hot drink and something nice to eat.

The best dates this year for doing a Messier Marathon have passed and the sky was drenched with the glow of the full moon, but we still have early April. Good luck.


Charles Messier (26 June 1730 – 12 April 1817) was a French astronomer most notable for publishing an astronomical catalogue consisting of deep sky objects such as nebulae and star clusters that came to be known as the 110 “Messier objects”. The purpose of the catalogue was to help astronomical observers, in particular comet hunters such as himself, distinguish between permanent and transient objects in the sky.
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Re: APOD Collection: A Mess of Messiers

Postby saturno2 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:47 pm

Excellent Collection
But I would have liked to put in brackets the equivalent number in the
New General Catalogue ( NGC )

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Re: APOD Collection: A Mess of Messiers

Postby MargaritaMc » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:18 pm

Owlice wrote
What is the collective term for Messier objects?? Regardless of whether I have chosen the right one (suggestions are welcome) for the title of this thread, here are APODs for every Messier object featured relatively on its own over the years

A Melange of Messiers?
Whatever the collective noun might be, this collection is breath-taking. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to put together this post.

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Re: APOD Collection: A Mess of Messiers

Postby Deee92 » Sun Apr 03, 2016 4:25 am


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