Explanation: Magnificent island universe NGC 5033 lies some 40 million light-years away in the well-trained northern constellation Canes Venatici. This telescopic portrait reveals striking details of dust lanes winding near the galaxy’s bright core and majestic but relatively faint spiral arms. Speckled with pink star forming regions and massive blue star clusters, the arms span over 100,000 light-years, similar in size to our own spiral Milky Way. A well-studied example of the class of Seyfert active galaxies, NGC 5033 has a core that is very bright and variable. The emission is likely powered by a supermassive black hole. The bright nucleus and rotational center of the galaxy also seem to be slightly offset, suggesting NGC 5033 is the result of an ancient galaxy merger. (Text: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120817.html)
This picture was photographed during 3 nights in March-April, 2014 in Khlepcha observatory, Ukraine.
Equipment: home made reflector 10 in., f/3.8
Mount WhiteSwan-180, camera QSI-583wsg, Tevevue Paracorr-2. Off-axis guidecamera QHY5L-II.
LRGB filter set Baader Planetarium.
L=32*450 sec. + 19*300 sec.
R= 5*600 sec. + 8*300 sec.
G= 5*600 sec. + 14*300 sec.
B=5*600 sec.+ 13*450 sec., Total 11.5 hours.
FWHM 2.44”-3.01” , sum in L channel - 2.76”
Processed Pixinsight 1.8, Fitstacker and Photoshop CS6
can we take a moment to understand that this was taken with a homemade device….. MIND BLOWN!
Unusual dusty galaxy NGC 7049
How was this unusual looking galaxy created? No one is sure, especially since spiral galaxy NGC 7049 looks so strange. NGC 7049’s striking appearance is primarily due to an unusually prominent dust ring seen mostly in silhouette. The opaque ring is much darker than the din of millions of bright stars glowing behind it. Besides the dark dust, NGC 7049 appears similar to a smooth elliptical galaxy, although featuring surprisingly few globular star clusters. NGC 7049 is pictured above as imaged recently by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright star near the top of NGC 7049 is an unrelated foreground star in our own Galaxy. Not visible here is an unusual central polar ring of gas circling out of the plane near the galaxy’s center. Since NGC 7049 is the brightest galaxy in its cluster of galaxies, its formation might be fostered by several prominent and recent galaxy collisions. NGC 7049 spans about 150 thousand light years and lies about 100 million light years away toward the constellation of Indus.
Image credit: NASA, ESA and W. Harris (McMaster University)
International Dark Sky Week - April 20-26
International Dark Sky Week, created in 2003 by high-school student Jennifer Barlow, is a key component of Global Astronomy Month (April). The International Dark-Sky Association aims to spread awareness to the issues around light pollution as well as provide solutions to mitigate it.
In 2001, “The First World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness” reported two-thirds of the U.S. population and more than 50% of the European population had already lost the ability to see the Milky Way with the naked eye (x). The report also showed that 63% of the world population and 99% of the population of the European Union and the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) lived in regions where the night sky is brighter than the threshold for light-polluted status set by the International Astronomical Union. In 1994, an earthquake knocked out the power in Los Angeles. Many residents called local emergency centres reporting a strange “giant, silvery cloud” in the dark sky. That giant, silvery cloud was the Milky Way, which many residents had just seen for the first time.
Light pollution can also affect human health. Light photons need to impact the retina for biologic effects to occur. Nuisance light becomes a health hazard when there is a lot of artificial light at night, in cities like Manhattan or Las Vegas. This is because there is more opportunity for the retina to be exposed to photons that might disrupt circadian rhythm. The circadian clock is a 24-hour day/night cycle, which affects physiologic processes in most organisms. There is a large amount of epidemiologic evidence that indicates a consistent association between exposure to indoor artificial nighttime light and health problems such as breast cancer (x). This association does not prove that artificial light causes the problem, however laboratory studies have shown exposure to light during the night disrupts circadian and neuroendocrine physiology, which then accelerates tumour growth (x).
Flora and fauna are also affected by light pollution. Prolonged exposure to artificial light has been shown to affect trees from adjusting to seasonal variations, which then affects wildlife that depend on trees for their natural habitat (x). Research on wildlife species has shown that light pollution can alter behaviours, foraging areas, and breeding cycles.
One dramatic example of this is sea turtles. Many species of sea turtles lay their eggs on beaches, and the females of the species return to the same beaches to nest. When these beaches are brightly lit at night, these lights can disorient the females who then wander onto nearby roadways and get struck by vehicles (x). Sea turtle hatchlings typically head toward the sea by orienting away from the dark silhouette of the landward horizon. With bright artificial lights on the beach, these hatchlings become disoriented and navigate toward the artificial light source, never finding the sea.
The image used shows the Bortle Dark Sky Scale, created by John E. Bortle and published here: (1, 2). It is a guide for amateur astronomers and is a nine-level numeric scale that measures the night sky’s and stars’ brightness of a particular location. Class 1 represents the darkest skies available on Earth while Class 9 shows inner-city skies
Reducing light pollution is not just about being able to see the night sky much more effectively. It is also about saving money, energy and reducing greenhouse gases while protecting the environment, wildlife, and improving human health. This is not to say that artificial lighting is bad; it is when artificial lighting becomes inefficient, annoying, and unnecessary that it is known as light pollution. To aid in minimising light pollution, you can shield outdoor lighting, or at least angle it downward and use light only when needed. Motion detectors and timers are also useful. Use only the amount of illumination you need and try reducing lamp wattage.
Stay tuned on The Universe for Dark Sky Week: we’ll be showcasing various Night Sky photographers and their issues with light pollution, throughout the week.
For more information on light pollution, click here.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Image is a screenshot of the Light Pollution Simulation / Bortle Scale
Robonaut, installed on the International Space Station to perform chores for astronauts, just got its first pair of real legs.
NASA says that the new seven-jointed legs are designed for climbing in zero gravity and offer a considerable nine-foot leg span. Instead of feet, the legs feature “end effectors” designed to grapple onto handrails and sockets located both inside the space station and, eventually, on the ISS’s exterior. Robonaut’s end effectors have a built-in vision system—almost like a pair of eyes—that are designed to eventually automate each limb’s approaching and grasping.
Happy Earth Day from the Universe
"We all think of different things when it comes to Earth Day. For some of us, it’s environmental protection, for others, it’s about being thankful for the beauty and bountifulness of nature, for still others, it’s a time to come together and protect our world from manmade woes like nuclear war or climate change.
But for me, when I think of Earth Day, I think of the one thing we all have in common.
I think of our home world. I think of its remarkable story of where it came from in this Universe, about its cosmic insignificance while, simultaneously, how indispensable it is to our own anthropocentric lives. Of the billions of stars that lived-and-died to create the atoms everything in our world is made from, of the biological, chemical and astrophysical accidents that happened to bring about our natural history instead of a different one, and of all the trillions and trillions of generations of creatures that lived and died so that we’d experience the world exactly as it is.”