Messier 15 - Globular Cluster in Pegasus

M15 is one of the oldest globular clusters known, clocking in at around 12 billion years old. It was discovered in 1764 by the comet-hunter and astronomer Charles Messier, who compiled a list of “not-a-comet” objects. M15 is interesting because it has undergone a core collapse, creating a very dense cluster with a possible black hole in its centre. It is an excellent target with and without telescopic aid.

Top: Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Messier 14 - Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus

M14 is one of the many night sky objects catalogued by the French Astronomer Charles Messier. This globular cluster was discovered by Messier in 1764, the light 30,000 years old. M14 can easily be found with binoculars, and is very much elongated. A nova was detected in the cluster in 1964, when looking back at photographic plates from 1938.

Top:Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom:Close-Up - NOAO/AURA/NSF

You know what I like about Europa? Suppose we do find life. Then what do you call it? You call it Europeans!
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Messier 13 - Globular Cluster in Hercules

Alright, so this messier object is one of my favourites. Discovered in 1714 by Edmond Hally and cataloged by Charles Messier in 1764, M13 is one of the easiest and most brilliant sights in the night sky. Located in the “keystone” of the constellation Hercules, it can be easily seen with a telescope. It was also the target for the 1974 test message from the Arecibo dish, with information about the human race and earth.

Top: Wide-Field - Rawastrodata

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA/ESA

Messier 12 - Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus

M12 is yet another globular cluster in the Messier Catalog developed by Charles Messier in the late 18th century. Messier, a comet hunter, dedicated a list to essentially “things that weren’t comets” but are actually very cool things. This globular cluster, for example, is one of the oldest objects in the galaxy and helps astronomers uncover new information about the formation of our galaxy. M12 in particular is quite loosely bound of a globular cluster, and has an surprisingly low number of low-mass stars. Great target for both binocular and telescopes!

Top: Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

So apparently those sexually frustrated geckos that were in the spacecraft that the Russians managed to loose contact with will finally see their way back home at last - that is, after video footage is gathered. Crazy Russian biologists!

Alien Planet’s Size Measured Like Never Before

Astronomers have made the best-ever measurement to date of the radius of an alien world.

Using observations by NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes, researchers determined that the exoplanet Kepler-93b is 1.48 times the size of Earth, confirming its status as a super-Earth — a world slightly larger than our own — and allowing scientists to conclude that the planet is very likely composed of iron and rock.

"With Kepler and Spitzer, we’ve captured the most precise measurement to date of an alien planet’s size, which is critical for understanding these far-off worlds," lead author Sarah Ballard, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement. “The measurement is so precise that it’s literally like being able to measure the height of a six-foot-tall person to within three-quarters of an inch — if that person were standing on Jupiter.”



Photo Credit: NASA/JPL

Messier 11 - The Wild Duck Cluster

M11 is one of the many open clusters within our galaxy, and is located in the constellation of Scutum. Discovered by Gottfried Kirch in 1681 and later cataloged by Charles Messier in 1764, The Wild Duck Cluster is an immensely rewarding target for both binocular and telescope observers. It is one of the most compact open clusters found thus far, and is supposed to resemble a flock of flying ducks, hence it’s name.

Top: Wide-Field - Rawastrodata

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

This evening I received a standing ovation from a group of observatory visitors who had trapped me inside the dome. I gave them a brief run-down of astronomy and then their questions carried me into cosmology and planetary sciences. It turned into an “ask the astronomer” session, which I really did enjoy. Amazing how young children can think of so many more interesting (and dumb-founding) questions compared to adults. One child asked what would happen if the surface of the sun was covered in sunspots, and so I told his parents to get him into a PhD program because he’s asking good questions, regardless of their scientific value. We need people to ask questions, I see far too few people who would rather remain silent than share what is on their minds. The kids though, they come right on up. They want to stump the astronomer. And it’s only the kids that do. Excellent night for myself and the visitors. Milky Way was clean cut for most of the night.

Parents, let your kids ask questions. Don’t spoil the budding scientist within. The future needs them.

Messier 10 - Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus

M10, like M9, is a globular cluster within the constellation Ophiuchus, the “Serpent Bearer”.  It differs from its neighbor by being a wee bit closer to Earth by about 6,000 light-years. M10 was cataloged shortly after M9 in 1764 by the French astronomer and comet-hunter Charles Messier. M10 is somewhat enriched compared to other such clusters, by large stars going supernova and ejecting heavier elements about the region. Astronomers have found “blue straggler” stars in the middle of the cluster, thought to have formed through interactions within the cluster or captured. These straggler stars are much younger than the surrounding stars and their formation is not well understood.

Top: Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Does anybody besides me ever consider how history would have been had we been a moon of another planet or had rings? Would the Egyptians have built rockets instead pyramids? Would we have triumphed interstellar travel while the Romans were conquering the Gauls? Our moon brought plenty to bear on our imaginations, but what if the night sky was the backdrop of a more fascinating world…?

What if?

Alfred Noyes - Watchers of the Sky:

At noon, upon the mountain’s purple height,
Above the pine-woods and the clouds it shone
No larger than the small white dome of shell
Left by the fledgling wren when wings are born.
By night it joined the company of heaven,
And, with its constant light, became a star.
A needle-point of light, minute, remote,
It sent a subtler message through the abyss,
Held more significance for the seeing eye
Than all the darkness that would blot it out,
Yet could not dwarf it.
High in heaven it shone,
Alive with all the thoughts, and hopes, and dreams
Of man’s adventurous mind.
Up there, I knew
The explorers of the sky, the pioneers
Of science, now made ready to attack
That darkness once again, and win new worlds.
To-morrow night they hoped to crown the toil
Of twenty years, and turn upon the sky
The noblest weapon ever made by man.
War had delayed them. They had been drawn away
Designing darker weapons. But no gun
Could outrange this.


Messier 9 - Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus

Discovered by Charles Messier in 1764, M9 is a large globular cluster located near the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Globular Clusters are some of the oldest objects of the galaxy, providing clues about it’s evolution and structure. There are also several dark clouds of interstellar dust nearby, which are featured in the first image above. While M9 can be seen with decent binoculars, it is only with large telescopes that the cluster comes into full view.

Top: Wide-Field - Siggi Kohlert

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA/ESA

Atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s Largest Moon

A researcher from MIPT, Prof. Vladimir Krasnopolsky, who heads the Laboratory of High Resolution Infrared Spectroscopy of Planetary Atmospheres, has published the results of the comparison of his model of Titan’s atmosphere with the latest data.

The article in the journal Icarus compares the chemical composition of Titan’s atmosphere with parameters predicted by a mathematical model. The atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon was described by a model that took into account the presence of 83 neutral molecules and 33 ions and 420 different chemical reactions between them. Despite the fact that Titan is located much further from the Sun than Earth and that radiation flux coming from the Sun to the moon is 100 times less, the intensity of UV rays is enough to spur photochemical reactions in the upper layers of Titan’s atmosphere.


Photo Credit: NASA

Messier 8 - The Lagoon Nebula

M8 is one of the first great finds in the Messier Catalog, compiled by the French Astronomer Charles Messier in the late 18th century. The Lagoon Nebula is strikingly violent, as well as beautiful. M8 is a massive star forming region, featuring a high concentration of large early type stars. These stars ionize the surrounding gas causing the emission of light associated with Hydrogen, which we perceive as a pinkish red. The Lagoon Nebula is visible with the naked eye, but only just. In the first photo, the VLT at Paranal Observatory is able to give us a front-seat view to one of the wonders of the galaxy.

Top: Wide-Field - VLT/ESO

Middle: Dust Filaments - CFHT

Bottom: Twisters - NASA/Hubble