Hubble Space Telescope – 25 Years of Exploring the Universe

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

Exactly 25 years ago today, the Discovery space shuttle took off with the Hubble Space Telescope aboard.  For all the mind-blowing images Hubble has been able to bring to us, the project started actually pretty badly…

Above all the funding challenges that such a large project faced, there were many issues on how and who should grind the primary mirror.  In all three mirrors were built by three different companies should there be issues during production.  The Challenger disaster in 1986 delayed the launch of the telescope, and when it was finally placed in orbit, a faulty mirror wasn’t able to correctly focus the image to the clear and crisp views everyone had expected.  As the flaw was due to an error in the calibrating instrument during the final shaping of the mirror, it meant it was flawed to perfection, and could therefore be corrected by giving it “glasses”.  It wasn’t until 1993 that corrective optics were incorporated and we could finally start exploring the potential of the telescope.

As the Hubble Space Telescope is in low earth orbit it is within easy reach to be serviced by astronauts, and five shuttle missions were dedicated to servicing Hubble, the last one being in 2009 to extend the operation until 2020.  By then the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) should be operational.  Something to note here is that while Hubble could be serviced and maintained over time due to its proximity to Earth, JWST will be too far out, located at the L2 Lagrange point – 1.5 million km, beyond Moon’s orbit.

To celebrate these 25 years, NASA and ESA have released this wonderful galactic firework: Westerlund 2

NASA Unveils Celestial Fireworks as Official Hubble 25th Anniversary Image
Source: Hubblesite.org

Faint Images of Galaxies M95 and M96

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Galaxies are always a challenge… Imaging objects such as nebulas within our galaxy is much better suited to my small telescope.  At 700mm focal length, galaxies over 30 million light years away are rather small and lack detail.  Nevertheless this is my go at Messier 95 and 96 in the constellation of the Lion.

These galaxies were discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781 with a 12in telescope, nearly 4 times the size of mine.

Galaxies Messier 95 and 96 - Benoit Guertin

Galaxies Messier 95 and 96 – Benoit Guertin

The image was scaled to 30% and I’ve added insets of the galaxies.

Telescope: Sky-Watcher 80ED
Camera: Canon XTi (ISO 400)
Image: 30 x 30sec

Link

With the last maneuver planned for April 24th, the Messenger spacecraft will be officially out of fuel and unable to maintain proper orbit around planet Mercury.  Scientists expect the spacecraft to crash onto Mercury on April 30th.  Unfortunately the impact is expected on the opposite side of the planet, out of view from Earth’s observation posts.

I know for past spacecraft impacts such as those on the Moon, NASA had asked the amateur astronomy community to observe and record the impact.  Out of luck and out of reach this time…

Sources: SPACE.COM / NASA

iOptron Tri-Pier

In astrophotography, a solid mount is key.  But you don’t want something that is too heavy that can’t be transported to your favorite spot away from light pollution.  iOptron has released a Tri-Pier combines the stiffness of a pier with the portability of a tripod.  It can be used with their mounts, or with proper adapter to other makes.  With 220lbs of maximum capacity, this can hold some serious gear.  I can’t even think up 220lbs of astro-gear!

iOptron Tri-Pier (photo: iOptron)

iOptron Tri-Pier (photo: iOptron)

Source: iOptron

Messier 67 – Open Cluster

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On the same night that I imaged Messier 44 I decided to hop over to another nearby open cluster: Messier 67.  While M44 appears three times larger, both of these open clusters are estimated to be of roughly the same size, but M67 happens to be 5 to 6 times farther away.

Click on the image to get the full image, it’s scaled and cropped below.

Open Cluster Messier 67 Benoit Guertin

Open Cluster Messier 67
Benoit Guertin

Telescope: Sky-Watcher 80ED
Camera: Canon XTi (ISO 400)
Image: 19 x 30sec

Photons From 200 Million Years Ago

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Yesterday when I processed and posted the open cluster Messier 44, I noticed I had captured a faint galaxy in the background.  So while the stars in the open cluster are within our galaxy at a distance of 577 light years, that faint galaxy UGC 4526 is located at 200 million light years away.  Therefore the photons captured by my 80mm telescope lens in my backyard and counted by my Canon camera exited the stars within that galaxy at the start of the Jurassic period when dinosaurs just became the dominant vertebrate on land.  The light travelled 1,903,000,000,000,000,000,000 km to land on the camera sensor where each pixel is no bigger than 5.7micro-meter.  Pretty mind-blowing when one thinks about it!

Magnitude 14 Galaxy UGC 4526 in M44 Benoit Guertin

Magnitude 14 Galaxy UGC 4526 in M44
Benoit Guertin

Meade Series 5000 MWA Eyepiece

In January Meade launched the Series 5000 MWA Eyepiece.  With an apparent field of view of 100deg, this is the widest available from Meade.  Currently only four focal lengths are available: 5mm, 10mm, 15mm and 21mm.  The 5 and 10mm are available in 1.25in while the 15 and 21mm are only in 2in.

Overall this is an evolution on the Meade UWA with improved AFOV and eye relief, but with half the 5000 series Xtreme Wide Angle’s price.

Meade Series 5000 MWA Eyepieces

Meade Series 5000 MWA Eyepieces

Source: Meade