Mike's Astro Photos
Nov.03 2013

Triangulum Galaxy

by , under Galaxies

Here’s my latest long exposure photo of the Triangulum Galaxy. The last time I imaged this galaxy was in 2010 and I’ve made some progress since then. For reference, here are some of my first amateur photos of the Triangulum Galaxy. At about 3 million light years away, the Triangulum Galaxy is home to approximately 40 billion stars. Its the 3rd largest galaxy in our local group and you can actually see it with the naked eye under very dark skies. Its apparent size in our sky is actually bigger than the full moon, but because it is so dim, you can’t really see it.

Click the image below for a larger (2000×2000) version of this picture or click here for an even bigger wall paper sized version of the galaxy (4000×4000).

Triangulum Galaxy – October 2013

Image Details for The Triangulum Galaxy
Shot With 2 Hours 40 minutes of RGB and 5 hours of Lum
Total exposure: 12.8 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: October 25,26 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Oct.27 2013

Comet ISON

by , under Comets & Meteors

Here’s another photo of ISON from October 27th, 2013.

Comet ISON – October 27th, 2013

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Oct.26 2013

Comet ISON Color

by , under Comets & Meteors

The current Moon phase is making it difficult to image, but Comet ISON continues to get brighter. Here’s a color picture of ISON from October 26th, 2013.

Comet ISON – October 26th, 2013

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Oct.22 2013

Spiral Galaxy M74

by , under Galaxies

Here’s my latest astrophoto of the spiral galaxy Messier 74. At approximately 32 million light-years away from Earth, this Grand Design Spiral Galaxy is home to an estimated 100 billion stars.

Grand Design Spiral Galaxy – Messier 74

Image Details for Galaxy M74
Shot With 2 Hours of RGB and 3 hours of Lum
Total exposure: 9 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: October 5,6,7 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Oct.16 2013

Comet ISON in Mars Light

by , under Comets & Meteors

The early morning moon has been hampering ISON imaging the last few days and this morning we had a little competition from our friend Mars. Here’s an animation of 9 frames of Comet ISON passing just two degrees from the Mars. The light streaks in the picture are Martian light.

Animation of Comet ISON passing Mars – October 16th, 2013

Here’s a color RGBL image from the same morning. Between the Moon and Mars its a pretty grainy picture, but I kinda of like the planetary glow in the shot.

Comet ISON with Mars Light – October 16th, 2013

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Oct.11 2013

Comet ISON Getting Stronger

by , under Comets & Meteors

Here’s a photo of Comet ISON from October 5th, 2013. Some new studies have been published this week that seem to be improving the chances of ISON’s survival around the Sun on Thanksgiving day. If that happens we should have quite a light show leading up to the new year.

Comet ISON – October 5th, 2013

This photo was constructed using 30 minutes of Luminance and 2 minutes each of Red Green and Blue.
 

For more info about comet ISON’s survival rates check out this article from Sky and Telescope.

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Oct.01 2013

Bubble Nebula

by , under Nebula

I haven’t gotten much scope time in this year for several reasons, some technical, some personal and most related to the short nights of summer. Now that the dark hours are longer and I’ve worked through a lot of my issues, I’m getting back into it. Here’s my first long exposure image since March. Its the NGC 7635, an emission nebula hidden in the constellation Cassiopeia. This image was shot using narrow band filters over 4 nights. A total of 15 hours of exposure time went into this picture.

Bubble Nebula – September 27th, 2013

Photo Details

M51
Shot With Narrow Band Filters 5 hours Each: Ha, Oii, Si
Total exposure: 15 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: September 24th – September 28th 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Sep.26 2013

Early Views of Comet ISON

by , under Comets & Meteors

Here are two photos of Comet ISON from September 24th and 26th.

Comet ISON – September 26th, 2013

Here is comet from two days before. The tail and comet appear brighter after just two days, but its possible this could just be differences in the seeing conditions between the two days.

Comet ISON – September 24th, 2013

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Sep.23 2013

First View of Comet ISON

by , under Comets & Meteors

Here are the first few pictures of Comet ISON taken over the weekend from my internet operated remote observatory in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The first picture was made with three, two minute exposures each of Red (R), Green (G), Blue (B) and Clear or Luminance (L) filters. Each of the color frames are stacked into a final 6 minute master image for that color. When this is completed for each filter, the 4 channels are combined into the final color (LRGB) image seen below. The stars in the picture are dotted lines because the telescope was tracking the comet instead of the Earth’s rotation. After about ten minutes of time the comet’s visible location changes relative to the star field causing the individual stars to trail.

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) – September 20th, 2013 / Image Details: 3×2-min RGB & 3×3-min L – RCOS 14.5 – Apogee U16M

Here’s an LRGB image consisting of a single two minute exposure for each color frame. The stars are not trailing in this image because the entire image was taken within 8 minutes which was not enough time for the stars to noticeably  move. There is a lot more noise in this image (it is grainy) because of the shorter exposure time.

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) - September 21st, 2013 – Image Details: 120 Second Exposure LRGB – RCOS 14.5 / Apogee U16M

Below is a longer exposure from September 21st totaling 48 total minutes of exposure time.

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)  - September 21st, 2013 – Image Details: LRGB 2 Minutes x 6 – RCOS 14.5 Apogee U16M

 

The way some people are talking, Comet ISON could be the comet of the century by the end of this November, but nobody really knows for sure just yet. For good reasons, the comet community has been a bit apprehensive about hyping up the comet any more than it already has been, mainly because they don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. Its possible the comet could light up half of the early morning sky this December, but its also possible it could break apart and melt completely on its journey around the sun which starts this Thanksgiving Day.

There are a few things about this comet that make it interesting. First its what astronomers call a ‘dynamically new comet’. This means the comet has never visited the inner solar system — this is its first trip around the Sun. Therefore the materials and elements that comprise the comet have never been heated past a boiling point. This is the first time in modern history a dynamically new comet has flown past Earth giving astronomers using spectrographic cameras an opportunity to analyze the elemental composition of the comet — something that has never been done before on a dynamically new comet.

Comet ISON is also what they call a ‘Sun Grazer’. This means the comet’s orbit puts it close enough to the sun that it will literally fly through the outer Corona. If this voyage does not complete destroy the comet, it will leave it with a significant tail that could stretch half of the sky. See the pictures of comet love joy, a similar sun grazer that was visible from the southern hemisphere last year. If ISON can make it past the sun, we should expect a light show that is comparable or better than comet love joy. Of course, this comet could be a total dud and that’s why the professionals are being cautious. They don’t want to get people’s hopes up and then look silly if the comet falls apart.

Comet ISON will be coming close to Earth on Dec 30th, but there is no fear of any danger at .42 AU (1 AU is the distance of the Earth to the Sun). Mars however will have a front row seat for the ISON fly by at just 0.07 AU. By mid January, Earth will be crossing the comet’s orbital path (the part of it before it went around the sun). Its still not certain but its possible we could have a new meteor shower associated with the comet.

Comet ISON Orbit and Location on October 1st, 2013 – Image Credit NASA

Here’s an image of the comet’s orbit and location when it has its closest fly by past Earth on December 30th, 2013.

Comet ISON Orbit and Location on December 30th, 2013 – Image Credit NASA

Around January 15th, the Earth will pass through the comet’s orbital path and we ‘might’ see a meteor shower.

Comet ISON Orbit and Location on January 15th, 2014 – Image Credit NASA

If you want to take a look at an interactive orbit model for Comet ISON check out this really cool ISON Orbit app built by NASA.

Some people ask, where does the comet come from, why has it never made it to the inner solar system, how long did it take to get here and how fast is it going. Space is a big place. Our solar system is a big place. Our inner solar system is a big place. BUT when you compare the distance between the Sun and Pluto, and then look at that distance relative the the Oort cloud (our outer solar system), you will be amazed at how small the planetary part of the solar system is compared to its outer regions. Take a look at this image of our solar system all the way out to the Oort cloud to give some perspective. ISON is an Oort cloud comet.

Planetary Region of Solar System Compared to the Oort Cloud

If all goes well, and Comet ISON survives its passage around the sun, we might be able to see something like this in the morning skies leading up to the new year. Of course if it melts around the sun, we won’t see anything.

Comet Lovejoy – Image Credit: Alex Cherney, TWAN

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Aug.13 2013

Perseid Meteor

by , under Comets & Meteors

The Perseids were mostly cloudy here in Maryland, but I was fortunate enough to catch this one meteor during a window of clear skies early monday morning. That’s me on the front porch observing from the rocking chair.

Perseid Meteor – August 12th, 2013

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Jul.08 2013

Meteorite Magazine Article

by , under Comets & Meteors

I got the latest issue of meteorite magazine in the mail today.

This is a special issue because it contains my first ever published magazine article, “Understanding the Orbits of Asteroid 2012 DA 14 and the Chelyabinsk Meteor”. Meteorite Magazine gave me permission to scan the article and post it here. Meteorite Magazine is 19 year old quarterly magazine and the leading scientific quarterly for meteorites. If you have an interest in meteorites, this magazine is a must. You can signup and order it here: http://meteoritemag.org/ 

If you happen to read the article, please send me your comments (good or bad) to mike.hankey [AT] gmail.com

 

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Jun.23 2013

Super Moon From Monkton

by , under Lunar

Here are some photos of last nights super moon. This is the first time I’ve tried getting animals inside celestial shots, its was challenging and fun.

Super Moon - June 22nd, 2013

Super Moon – June 22nd, 2013

 

Super Moon - June 22nd, 2013

Super Moon – June 22nd, 2013

 

Super Moon - June 22nd, 2013

Super Moon – June 22nd, 2013

 

Super Moon - June 22nd, 2013

Super Moon – June 22nd, 2013

 

Super Moon - June 22nd, 2013

Super Moon – June 22nd, 2013

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Jun.22 2013

Super Moon in Lancaster PA

by , under Mason Dixon Meteor

I had some business in Lancaster last night and caught the almost super moon rising just before dusk. Sunday night will be the full super moon and one day of the year when the Moon is closest to the Earth.

Almost Super Moon Over Amish Barn – June 21st, 2013

 

Amish Horse and Buggy - June 21st, 2013

Amish Horse and Buggy – June 21st, 2013

 

Moon Rolling Off Silo - June 21st, 2013

Moon Rolling Off Silo – June 21st, 2013

 

Almost Super Moon over Silo with Plane! - June 21st, 2013

Almost Super Moon over Silo with Plane! – June 21st, 2013

 

Talking about Meteorites - June 21st, 2013

Talking about Meteorites – June 21st, 2013

The hunt continues…

 

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Jun.19 2013

Hi Res Image of Half Moon

by , under Lunar

Here’s a high res picture of the first quarter moon phase from a few nights ago.

Half Moon – June 17th, 2013

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May.25 2013

Full Moon Memorial Day Weekend

by , under Lunar

There was a brilliant full moon last night. Here’s an image of it setting this morning at dawn.

Full Moon – May 25th, 2013

 

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